Monday, First Week in Advent
November 30, 2009
"The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world." — John 1:9
Slouching Toward Bethlehem
We are moving forward. We have our sights set on something, something that gets us out of bed in the morning and out the door. But what is the hope of all that action? What is the expected result of our desires and labors? We may not know the meaning of it all, but we understand – right? – that we are making some progress. And we depend on that progress, small as it may seem, to make sense of our place in the world.
What about for us as a people, as a human race together? How do we chart our progress? What is our hope for our common life together? Are we getting better as a people? Are we more desiring of another's sense of belonging than we used to be? We may look around at our situation today and say, yes, we are more enlightened about intolerance. We do understand that it's wrong to make someone feel like an outsider or a second class citizen. We are making some moral progress.
But sadly it is hard to sweep away long collective experience of mistrust and mistreatment, with the enlightened broom of individuals who now see the problem of past oppression. Especially when we collectively continue our separating ourselves from people with different skin tone, or different sexual orientation, or different way of talking, or different religion. Look around the world, and see whether or not this is true. Maybe not for you as an individual, but for our community, our country?
Could it be time to return to Bethlehem? Here is the site of one of the world's most bitter mutual hatreds: Palestinians versus Israelis. People struggle against each other, and die, and the bitterness deepens and hardens. We could say they are not as morally evolved as we are, but I think we would be kidding ourselves. They are trapped in the same human condition that binds us… we protect our own kind, and our own self-interests and identity, and when those are threatened from the outside, we fight with all we have. And the fighting deepens the division, and on and on it goes. It's just that we – you and I – don't happen to be in that situation at the moment, or are we?
Could it be time to return to Bethlehem and recognize the despair we would be in, if the light were not indeed coming into the world? The light which is not just for us and our kind, but for everyone. The light which can assure us, that we do not need to live in the dark enclosure of protecting our collective self-interests, but which shows us the joy of inclusion. If we are moving forward, perhaps we could let this light be the thing that wakes us up in the morning and puts us on the right path. Perhaps we could trust in this light the whole day through, and let it live in us and guide our feet, and magnify our desire for the light to brighten within us and in our shared lives together. Maybe then we could say, we're getting somewhere.