In recognition of Advent, which this year began on Nov. 27, a friar describes the themes of the season in the context of the current political climate of the United States. He emphasizes the importance of recreating from the outside and says, “Advent reminds us that solidarity and greatness don’t happen from the top down.”
It’s tough for us to make Advent significant. Running up to Christmas, it’s culturally correct to spend Advent doing what it takes to make Christmas a success. And for us, a successful Christmas needs a prelude of shopping, decorating, and partying at the office, school, and even the parish — all of which pushes back against what’s offered in the liturgies of Advent.
As “justice deferred is justice denied,” so also, promises. Thus, tougher still is making anything of Advent as a run-up to Christ’s return in glory.
But maybe this year, our hope of never repeating the awful experience of Campaign 2016 and dealing with its outcome (which the majority of those voting did not want) can prompt us to take a second look at Advent.
If we’re embarrassed by the politics of 2016, we need to remember that, in our political system, the results of an election can’t be blamed on the candidates. We, the people get what we deserve. Whatever the outcome, it’s about us, the electorate. And if we feel that those who stood for office this year were not the candidates we wanted, what are we going to do about it?
Questions to Consider
What needs to happen so that, come 2020 or 2024, we’ll be weighing the merits of candidates we’re proud of — and can live with — even if we have issues with their basic political philosophies?
When those considering a run for office in these years ahead take the temperature of our society and culture, what will they discover about us? What social changes will we have embraced to respect all life and not just the unborn or the vulnerable old? What will candidates learn about our willingness to sacrifice for one another, all the time and not just when disaster strikes? What price will they find us willing or unwilling to pay for security? And will they find us tolerant of being wooed on the basis of our gender, wealth, education, race, or whatever becomes the identity-of-the-month?
Will they find us a people with, as St. Paul said, “itching ears” for only what agrees with our point of view? Will they discover that we’ve re-learned that “compromise” is not a dirty word? Will they discover that we understand that the family of nations can no longer be balkanized by time and oceans – that “solidarity” is a new word for peace and prosperity – and that both require a new way of thinking and living?=
Re-Creation From Outside Ourselves
Life in relationship with God doesn’t give us what we deserve. It gives us what we need. The history of Advent tells us that we need redemption, re-creation from outside ourselves. Neither one of us nor some of us has the elixir that gives us the real strengths of togetherness or the recipe for greatness. At the same time, re-creation from outside has got to do its work from inside. So salvation isn’t a work accomplished by divine decree; it’s the work of flesh-and-blood.
Advent reminds us that solidarity and greatness don’t happen from the top down. The folks who brought us the first Advent weren’t the gnostics of Jerusalem’s elite. And some of those successful in following through, with the first Advent – we call them disciples – were those who were picked from Israel’s “basket of deplorables.”
It’s possible for Advent 2016 to help us craft our political future in a way that saves us from repeating – and continuing in these weeks of transition – the idiocy and self-destructiveness of Campaign 2016. If we were among the winners on Nov. 8, and are laying plans for a four-year deep victory that really does make us great, we should pay attention to what made the first Advent work. And if we were among Election Day’s losers, that same first Advent has something to teach us about who’s needed to make togetherness strong.
Winners or losers, victories that are more than pyrrhic depend on knowing the difference between need and desire – and then following the example of the outsider-become-insider.
— Fr. Dan is pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Clemson, S.C.
- “Children Praying for Peace: Letter from the Minister General and from the Custos of the Holy Land” – Order of Friars Minor website
- “Behind Hillary Clinton’s ‘Basket of Deplorables’ Line” – Sept. 13. 2016, ABC News
- “Friars and Partners-in-Ministry React to Presidential Election” – Nov. 16, 2016, HNP Today
- The Gnostic World View from the Gnostics Archive
- Advent Reflection by James Sabak, OFM – Dec. 4, 2013, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Journey” essay by Daniel McLellan, OFM