Advent is the Christian season of preparing for the coming of the savior, Jesus. Traditionally it is marked as both a time to prepare for the coming of Jesus as an infant, God incarnated as a human being AND a time to prepare for Jesus’ coming again at the end of the world.
I know, I know, a little too apocalyptic for our 21st century, reasonable, humanistic faith. Or is it? The reason this story endures is that it continues to have some relevance to the lived experience of people who take the life and teachings of Jesus as a grounding and center for their spiritual lives. We who put our trust in the example of Jesus’ ministry and teaching still find meaning in the traditions of Advent, even in the second coming.
Advent prepares us for God becoming flesh, or as the Gospel of John says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Literally, pitched its tent. Set up camp. Among us humans. How does what is divine become human? In a baby. In Jesus. In all babies. In humanity. The light of the world, the divine word and wisdom, are all part of who we are, each one one of us, and who we are together. We are all princes and princesses of peace. No, scratch that. Let’s leave royalty and gender out of it. We are all presidents of peace.
Advent is time in which we prepare, ponder, and process the idea of incarnation, the embodiment of the sacred not only in Jesus, but in all of us. What will we do with that reality? Will we be like Jesus? Jesus who accepted his divinity, looked for and saw it in others, even though they were sick, unclean, foreigners, poor, and practiced different religions, or will we incarnate something else?
It’s our choice. We get to pick. Each of us. Over and over. Generation after generation, we get to decide how we will live and what we will embody. We tell the Christmas story year after year to pass along to our children and they to their children that love is incarnate in us and it’s our job to be the hands and feet and eyes and ears and voice of love in the world.
As simple as that is, there are those who do not choose this. Those who do not tell this story. Those who incarnate all the things that set themselves against love such as greed, power, control, domination, hate, and violence.
There come times, over and over in history, where the incarnation of love is set against all those dark forces. It is a story that is echoed in the modern scripture of so many stories such as the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, even the latest comic book to film, Dr. Strange. The Darkness rises and then the light and hope rises in unlikely places to dispel it. These struggles can seem like, literally, the end of the world. And at such times we look to coming of a savior to be born.
We look over the horizon and try to read it in the stars. We look toward the heavens and to others. Where is the next Susan B. Anthony, the next Lincoln, the next MLK, the next Gandhi, the next Romero, the next Harvey Milk, the next savior. Where is Frodo for God’s sake or Luke Skywalker!? We forget to look inside ourselves, for God is incarnate in us, each of us. Now, during Advent, we struggle to be born…again, from that place in us that champions decency and finds courage, and holds on to hope. Now is the time we need all of us, all of us saviors to be born.
Our times are ripe for anti-Christs, opponents of love, to put on the sheep’s clothing and promise anyone anything in exchange for allegiance and power. Biblical fundamentalists will point to a host of proof texts that foretell the second coming and it’s being preceded by the arrival of an anti-Christ . Again, I know, a bit too much sci-fi and irrational, but the imagery makes for great metaphor and art. Yeats’s is one example that’s well known:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
It seems like the center is not holding in our American system and with the appointment of white supremacists and homophobic cabinet members, total anarchy seems to loom on the horizon. The ceremony of innocence and invincible democracy is certainly being dunked, if not drowned. The best today do not lack all conviction, but they are certainly now being called to match the intensity of conviction of the worst. A second coming is certainly looming. Will the second coming be saviors in the service of love or will it be someone pretending to a savior, but who actually has different motives? What rough beast, as Yeats might put it, slouches toward Washington to be born?
Donald Trump is not The Anti-Christ, that’s a little too supernatural. But the metaphor works, for he is certainly anti many things: anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Women, anti-Black, and anti-Gay which all add up to being anti-Love, kindness, and compassion. We know where to find this rough beast, it will nest in towers and palaces on the east coast. It will breathe fire on Twitter. But where is the one we need to redeem us? Where is the Messiah to deliver us from this beast?
Look in the mirror. It’s you. You’re a savior. You are a holy child. And you are enough. You, a president of peace. You, the incarnation of Love in the world.