On the first day of this week, we entered into the season of Advent. We are watching, waiting, wondering, drawing near to One who draws near to us, living into deep desire and expectation of the soul.
Advent is both strange and new for many while still profoundly, instinctively familiar. It is a soulful time that many of us know beneath the frenetic energy of shopping, pageants, recitals, parties and gatherings. We may not be able to name it, but like a steady pulse, it remains.
Some faith communities already focus on the manger, the Magi and the mystery of the Incarnation, but we who are waiting look to the prophets. Isaiah lived centuries before the birth of Jesus. He wrote: “There’s a day coming when the mountain of God’s House will be The Mountain — solid, towering over all mountains” (Isaiah 2:2a, MSG).
At first blush, one might understand this as a message of dominance and power. Rather, it is a message of unity, of drawing together and drawing near. “All nations will river toward it, people from all over set out for it,” wrote Eugene Peterson in the Message (Isaiah 2:2b).
Picture a flow of people moving toward one center, one goal, one purpose, one place. Moreover, the people will call others, invite strangers and friends alike to “come, let’s climb God’s Mountain …” God will “show us the way he works so we can live the way we’re made” (Isaiah 2:3, MSG). Think! So that we may live into our full potential, our full being, our full selves.
Imagine that. We can live into our full selves — not partial, not imbalanced, not embittered or fearful. Full, peaceful and whole. Shalom.
Isaiah goes on. God “will settle things fairly between nations.” God “will make things right between many peoples.” This is a grand reconciliation, global, existential.
I recall a 1965 lyric, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” This is not sentimental or schmaltzy. This is true, genuine, heart-and-soul-body-and-mind longing for the Universal Love for all creation.
Then comes a well-known passage: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4, NRSV). In truth, I always focused on this as a dualistic concept: war vs. peace. I was born in the post-Vietnam era. Our nation and world were still struggling with the cognitive dissonance that war brought, internally and externally.
Since Vietnam, the globe has known battle upon struggle upon war upon conflict upon strife upon bitter betrayal. Anyone who pays the least bit of attention to our country in the year 2019 knows we are so pungently oppositional. We no longer listen to one another; we have forgotten, or we refuse to do so.
We need the common goal of Isaiah, the shared invitation to journey and purpose to our center. Imagine if the opposing forces could stop and sincerely attend to the concerns of the other without reacting. Simply listen. Genuinely share.
I imagine we would experience a rebalancing, a renewal of fairness, a reiteration of hope. We enter into 2020 braced for a cataclysmic, almost apocalyptic encounter. On the other side, we may be even further entrenched in our divisions.
Still, we have an opportunity and a calling to do this differently. We have the chance to participate in God making things right between us. Here is your invitation.