Tough and Resilient Hope
O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!
In the wake of shootings, a chokehold, and grand jury decisions, I also happened to come across this fact: “Today there are more African Americans under correctional control, whether in prison or in jail, on probation or parole than there were enslaved in 1850.” The raw realities and dangers of being a young black man in America confront us. The racism that still shapes and confounds us stands starkly in front of us this Advent season.
We light candles to remind us of the ways God’s own light has come into the world, but we also see how it is still so very obscured, how dimly it flickers against the dark night. There are shadows, deep and disturbing shadows, stubbornly lingering between us and the shining fullness of God’s justice and love. All is not well. Not yet. In the face of one death after another, the prayer of our hearts takes on Isaiah’s urgency, “God, tear open the heavens and come down!”
But as desperate as the cry of our Advent prayer, our Advent hope is as tough and resilient. “Hope has two beautiful daughters,” says Augustine, the 5th century African bishop. “Their names are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
The season of Advent and the harsh newspaper headlines show us how God is far from finished. In Jesus, God has “come down” and gotten started. But there is much more to do for God, and for us, God’s people – to channel anger into healing action and advocacy, and to gather our courage and compassion to create communities of safety and protection for every person.
Prayer: Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down. Fix in us your humble dwelling; all your faithful mercies crown. Jesus, you are all compassion, pure, unbounded love impart. Visit us with your salvation; enter every trembling heart. Amen.