Spirited Reflection: Moonstruck
[The LORD] shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the LORD!
The season of Advent honours the honest admission that there are times when it feels like God is absent.
Certainly, Advent advocates engaging this feeling with a sense of confidence in God’s promises: with hope, preparation, alertness and anticipation. Nevertheless, it begins with a feeling that God is not here yet; and that life would be somehow better if God were here.
Darkness is a fundamental Advent image; and light piercing the darkness is a central symbol of God’s promises. In the northern hemisphere, Advent happens while we experience the fewest hours of daylight. In my tradition, both church and family, the Advent wreath is an important part of our spiritual discipline. As we move deeper into Advent, the hours of darkness grow longer and stronger; at the same time, with each passing week, the light from the candles burns brighter.
In December, 2014, I was asked by KAIROS [Canada] to represent our movement at Life with Dignity: Kairos Palestine 5th Anniversary Conference in Bethlehem, and to visit representatives of KAIROS global partners in Palestine – Israel.
In a few words, it is difficult to communicate the commitment, determination, wisdom and good work done by global partners who are living with oppression and struggling for justice on a daily basis. During the conference, the phrase “creative resistance” [to occupation] was used frequently. One speaker observed that “the oppressor doesn’t get to define what resistance is appropriate.” In visiting partners, I was told that international solidarity is important because it lifts spirits, shows you care, brings meaning to their work and expands their work.
On my last night in Jerusalem, I went for a walk around the Old City of Jerusalem. As I walked, the full moon was rising above the walls of the Old City. The light was shining in the darkness. On my first day of work in January, 2015, as I walked home from work on a dark, cold evening, that same moon was rising over Winnipeg. It was again a full moon and it touched me very deeply. The world felt smaller. I felt closer to our partners; I felt bonded in our calling. The light was again shining in the darkness. I was suddenly conscious of the moon as a large sign of hope.
In one way, Kairos and Advent might be considered opposites. Kairos is a critical and decisive moment in God’s time. God is here and the time is now. Advent is about waiting and watching for God to come. The time is not yet here.
However, Advent is very much a part of justice initiatives. Darkness, waiting and the absence of the holy can be very difficult. There is something valuable in being honest about how dark it gets.
Moreover, the people who can see the light in the darkness are a great gift. They proclaim hope, offer leadership and help us all to discover the direction God would have us go. The prophets are such light-seers. So are our global partners. I think you probably are as well.
Isaiah invites us to see God’s vision:
- Beating swords into ploughshares.
- No one learning war any more.
- Diverse nations gathering together in peace.
- Walking in the light.
May your honest Advent prayers deepen your solidarity, draw you closer to your neighbours, enrich your love for God’s world, and renew your energy for creative resistance and for creative Canadian ecumenical justice initiatives.
Rev. Paul Gehrs lives on Treaty One Territory in Winnipeg, with his spouse Melanie Whyte and their two adult children, Emma and Andrew. He works as Assistant to the Bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), and serves on the KAIROS Steering Committee as the ELCIC representative. He is honoured be part of the KAIROS Indigenous Rights Circle (KIRC).