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First Sunday of Advent

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” – Jeremiah 33:14-16

Aren’t We Getting Any Better?

Do you ever get this feeling: that if we’ve been celebrating the coming of Christ into the world for so long, why don’t things seem to be getting better? Is Emmanuel – God with us – not being effective after all these many do-overs? Do we get discouraged the way I used to when I was a kid, asking my mom, why do I have to make my bed and clean my room if they are just going to get messed up again? Why celebrate the coming of the “Prince of Peace” and “The Lord is our Righteousness” if we keep fighting with each other all the time, all over the globe: people dying in Syria and Burma and in Mexico, where thousands of people are killed in the routine of keeping narcotics flowing into the United States.

Santa Claus is coming to town…
He sees you when you’re sleeping,
He knows when you’re awake
He knows when you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness’s sake…

After all this time, it seems to me, we would be good, if we could… for goodness’s sake. That is the thing I will be pondering this Advent… something deep in our nature keeps us from being good. Day after day, year after year. Something keeps us choosing our own self-interest over the common good. Something close to the bone tells us to claim goodness for our group, our country, our religion. And if we say to ourselves, we have been good, that it’s those other people who’ve been naughty, not nice… then we have to remember that Jesus had some harsh things to say about people who are certain of their own righteousness.

We do desire to be in the right, to be good and a just people. And it is crucial for us to nourish and encourage that part of our nature, where the image of God dwells in us, where the kingdom of God has come near.

But let’s remember that we do not embody the good ourselves. We follow the path of love imperfectly – all of us. Our only hope to stop the long chain of human violence, here at the beginning of Advent, lies in the beauty of goodness, the light of overwhelming love being born into our world… again and again. There is a never ending stream of that power pouring out upon us, wherever we recognize the need, whenever we are ready to confess our own utter lack of will to consider the outsider. It’s there for us when we realize that for the impossible work of forgiveness and reconciliation, we require something more than what we have on us. The Christ, the Messiah, the power of goodness and justice stands ready to be born in us again and again.

So thank goodness that Advent is here again. The room is clean. The bed is made. Let’s be ready – once again – to receive the power and vision, to start over and make things right.

Have a blessed Advent season,
–  Jeff McArn, College Chaplain