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Friday, Third Week of Advent
December 18, 2009

"In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.' " -- Matthew 2:1-2

The Hand of Hope

Jane Campion's new film "Bright Star" explores the brief and deep relationship between the poet John Keats (1795 - 1821) and Fanny Brawne, two college-aged lovers whose togetherness was ultimately denied by economic hardship and the deadly misunderstood consumption, now known and successfully treated as tuberculosis. Their relationship was fueled by their proximity to one another, living as neighbors with an ajoining wall separating their bedrooms. In one scene the young poet, slowly dying from consumption, and Fanny, denied her desire to be with him, they each -- independently of the other -- move their beds beside the wall they share in common, and in their sleeplessness, each puts their hand on the wall, as if they are touching the other. All of their desire to be with each other, everything they want to say to each other, that desire for love to become real goes into this one sign: the hand on the wall.

Life puts each of us in this position with respect to our desires for ourselves and for our families, for our country, for our world. Our desire for something to blossom and take shape is sometimes blocked and thwarted. Today the Copenhagen meeting on global warming seems to be imploding, even though thousands -- millions? --  of people around the world are hoping for, praying for a change in the way we continually burden our world environment. Today our US Senate is arguing about the final form for a health care reform bill, where someone's deep desire for an abortion-free bill is blocked by another's desire for a public option, meanwhile millions of Americans find themselves without access to affordable health care. If we are faithful, if we believe that the goodness and fairness of the universe is real and on the way to actuality, we place our hand on the wall, and feel for the one on the other side who can make us complete, who can heal our alienation from one another. Even if we feel like we're sliding into the darkness of a consumptive death, or the despair of losing the love of our life forever, we put a hand on the wall, because we believe we do have a connection to what is real and good and life-affirming.

"Bright star, " Keats writes, "would I were steadfast as thou art..." May each of us be steadfast in our hope that the promise of the eastern star is real. May we have our faith renewed that one who embodies the love of all people is coming to live in our midst, and will indeed rule over us, and lead us out of our disagreements over our particular interests, into that bright place where we all shine together in love without end. Alleluiah. Alleluiah. Amen!

--Jeff McArn