Guest blog post by Rev. Doug Fritzsche
Been a tough year for optimists, no doubt about that. Yet the calendar brings us once again to the traditional Christian remembrance of the four big themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
I remember when the kids were not-even-toddling – and later, when they had not-quite toddlers of their own – playing the hilarious game of peek-a-boo!
It is a raucous game of now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t, interspersed with glee and hand waving and wildly rolling laughter. Peek-a-boo!
And it is more than a game, of course. In those early months, everything is a school of being-in-what-is. So, peek-a-boo is also serious training in object permanence – out-of-sight may be out-of-mind, but it isn’t gone at all.
As we grow and learn to abstract, we accept that the Aswan Dam and the Marianas Trench are real, even though we have visited neither. And we learn and accept the many attributes of people and institutions that come and go: generosity, kindness, hatred, compassion, greed and the whole list of possibilities and frailties.
Jesus tried to connect these ideas by offering images of a better way to live predicated on the fragments of good in evidence everywhere. The Good Samaritan offered succor: Who has never experienced help from a stranger? He showed us that we have what it takes … to be compassionate … to be neighbors … to light the world with love. He concluded that a new world order – his vision of a renewed creation – was “inside you”, was “at hand”. It was available in the here-and-now, not just a consolation prize. He suggested that its coming into being was like a tiny seed that spread like a weed and grew into a great tree offering shelter to all the birds. Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
My heart aches for the way these teachings have been abused and distorted for hateful and nationalistic ends, especially in this recent year of shared hardship. Yet I look at this Advent as a time to remember that the coming of Christ – the unity and oneness in which all of creation is joined in an alternate reality of compassionate participation and joyful mutual interdependence – hasn’t gone away, even though I might have lost sight of it.