Being Together This Advent
- Memory, presence and hope
- Archbishop Phillip Aspinall’s Advent 2020 message: the sustaining power of memory and hope
- Advent serendipity
- Q&A with trailblazing UQ science graduate, Cursillo member, writer and centenarian parishioner, Margaret Thurgood
- Bishop Jeremy Greaves’ Advent 2020 message: a season for spiritual stocktaking
- Margaret’s musings: spiritual stocktaking
- Prayer Tree helps students to practise peacemaking
- Church, community, chicken, chalk art and Christmas cheer
- Bishop John Roundhill’s Advent 2020 message: preparing for the prince of peace
- Bishop Cam Venables’ Advent 2020 message: making room in the inn
In his book, Humankind: A Hopeful History, Dutch historian and journalist Rutger Bregman argues that we have a habit of assuming the worst about our species and that cynicism has been understood as realism.
Why do we have a tendency to think the worst of ourselves and others? It may be because we have experienced disappointment, and those memories have a nasty habit of sticking like glue when other frequent happier memories fade. It may be that the popular media with its preference for bad news has tipped the balance the wrong way. In resisting these influences, Bregman’s radical idea, as he phrases it, is that “most people, deep down, are pretty decent.”
I don’t think we wish to believe the worst. In fact, I believe that in the heart of every person there is a desire for human community which has respect and love for one another at its core. We want something better – we can sometimes glimpse its possibilities and our good dreams haunt us.
Advent is the season for such good hauntings. Advent prepares us for what we hope for but don’t always dare to believe; an inbreaking of something entirely new, a visitation of love that is as unprecedented as it is undeserved. And even though we are anticipating something as sweet as a baby, this is not love in the mushy sentimental sense. This is the kind of visitation that is more like a fierce resistance, an ultimate all-or-nothing stand against everything that is unloving, divisive and unjust.
When we prepare for the coming of God, we can never be sure where or how that visitation will occur. After all, if divinity can bed down as a wailing infant in a pile of straw amongst livestock, holiness can emerge anywhere and everywhere. There seems to be no limits to the outrageous means that love has employed to reach a humankind haunted by good dreams.
So we wait and we hope and we dream of joy and peace breaking in and breaking out, overturning all those beliefs and reduced expectations of our neighbours that we wish we didn’t believe were realistic. Hope, joy, peace and love are all good words to express what Advent means to us, but personally, I prefer another – solidarity.
Old Testament scholar and theologian Walter Brueggemann defines solidarity as “steadfast love enacted with transformative strength” (Devotions for Advent: Celebrating Abundance, p.24). When we believe the media narrative or slip easily into our culture’s diagnosis of the sad state of the human character, we ignore our capacity for commitment to one another’s good. We cease to expect the kind of social transformation possible when we stand together and love with courage, refusing to give up on our neighbours or on ourselves.
Advent means a revived passion for solidarity because that moment for which we wait is nothing less than the solidarity of God with us. This is not a ‘send you thoughts and prayers’ type of solidarity, nor a ‘with you in spirit’ solidarity, but an actual physical entering into our own mess and pain to be God with us.
So we wait and hope with the kind of imaginative courage awakened by an impossibly vulnerable God who turns up in the most inauspicious moments. We hold vigil together because we are haunted by the same good dreams of mercy and human dignity. We resist the loud public voices of cynicism and despair because God in Christ has forever claimed that space of solidarity with us, one quiet night when love was born.Jump to next article