Hope in the Age of Darkness: Gifts of the Incarnation
Apocalyptic passages, as we continue to discover in the season of Advent, come as unwelcome harshness into the midst of our hopes for a season that is beautiful and peaceful. Instead, we continue with these images that stand in stark contrast to our decorations, cards, and traditions of the season. They come as a reminder that, despite our denial, we still live in a world where darkness comes abruptly amidst our celebrations.
Luke picks up on this same theme that we find in Mark’s and Matthew’s gospels, and again we hear the voice of Jesus challenging us to look at the tumultuous events occurring around us as signs of the penultimate reality of the reign of God. It is about a choice we have.
My own doctoral work has to do with brokenness and darkness in the ministry of the ordained. Those who lead our churches as clergy often find themselves experiencing a brokenness that is unexpected in that part of life where we sense the call of God to lead the people of God. It comes through some harsh political realities and power structures that exist in the church. We have dreams of what it will be like to pour ourselves out in ministry, and through our modeling, create churches full of people who, likewise, set aside personal gain for the glory of God.
Then the reality sets in, and we realize that people are people. We live in a world where there will always be people who feel the need to exercise power over other people in the life of the church. We find ourselves forced into the dualism I mentioned yesterday. We are either winners or losers, and quite frankly, winning feels so much better to us. We draw lines of battle over everything from doctrine to mandates of who’s in and who’s out to what carpet and furnishings go in the sanctuary.
Like the proverbial Civil War soldier who thought himself safe to wear a Union jacket and Confederate trousers, clergy often find themselves standing on the field of battle being shot from both sides. Amidst the darkness and brokenness, clergy experiencing brokenness are left with a choice: we can either let the brokenness annihilate us or we can use it as a sign to a greater reality. In the midst of the darkness, we might just find God.
So Jesus challenges us to let go of the trappings of this world (the ones that feel like debauchery and drunkenness) and the worries that leave us spread too thin with too little energy for such an encounter with God. When we let go and boldly stand amidst the darkness around us, we will discover a God who stands in the darkness with us … waiting to wrap us in the arms of hope!
God of All Hope: Give us the calm assurance that we can stand amidst the darkness, and having let go of all worldly distractions, may we sense your presence. Amen.