Our world is a mess and in need of redemption. Christ is coming to save us. Yet, Christ the Light has already come to save us and we are redeemed now. The Kingdom of God is now and not yet. There’s a power in the paradox that teaches us how to hold out hope.
Yesterday I was attempting to explain the spirituality of paradox to my advanced sophomores as we lit the third candle on our classroom Advent wreathe. Since we are all about Gaudete this week, things shift a bit. I told the students that we continue to prepare for the coming of Light into the world, yet rejoice over the fact that Christ is with us now. How can two things that seem contradictory both fit together so well? With God it works this way, since with God all things are possible.
To help my students grapple with the power of paradox, I found myself on a tangent about light years. We calculated the actual distance of a light year and became overwhelmed with our smallness. It is possible, I told them, to see starlight from a star that is actually already dead right now. How is that possible? Science and spiritual paradox tell us a lot about the Truth of God’s Light.
It’s advent, the hope season. Good news and good actions help us gain hope in humanity and the coming of Christ. Even though it’s not yet Christmas, we can celebrate how Light keeps glowing despite death and darkness.
True, there’s a litany of injustice, oppression, sin and suffering that is wider than the world we know. We know wars are raging and Earth is crying and people are dying. Economic inequality is ridiculous. (Did you know that if you earn more than $34,000 a year you are the global 1%!?) It doesn’t take much for us to be overwhelmed and want to give up and just face the doom. We’re responsible for making a difference, but how can we? It’s a big job to be good like God made us.
Fortunately, with God, all things are possible. We know that the rich and powerful nations and individuals have a big influence. Globally and economically speaking, the ways that we consume creates systems and structures that influence lives elsewhere. All we do matters and has power to share hope. These days, people know that there are problems, they’re talking about the problems and structures are improving. Our world is changing and things are getting better, because God is already here. We can celebrate the Light of increased awareness and converted conversations which permit joyous transformation and systemic change.
To really believe–to really have hope– we sometimes need to hear a story. Have you heard of how the Dodd-Frank act has influenced people in Congo? It’s wild and wonderful. The major Wall Street reforms that became law in the summer of 2010 had a tiny stipulation that said that the minerals in the electronics of Americans can no longer be mined in a conflict. In other words, the minerals used to manufacture our cell phones and laptops now have to be certified conflict-free. A story on The World impressed me. Evidently this new American law is challenging the government in Congo to become more just about their labor practices so that they can again trade their mined minerals with manufacturers in the U.S.A. Fewer children are being forced to work in the mines at gun-point because some good social awareness influenced trade practices and ultimately shifted an economic paradigm. It’s a great response to the discouraged questions of “can I really make a difference? Can we really have hope?”
Yes you CAN make a difference and you do! You are part of a global community. You are a child of God, you are the Light of the world. God is with you, using you as an instrument in your ordinary acts of life. We are instruments of Word and action. In word, we tell good news. I am sure you know your own stories about the goodness of God at work in us now. Good news holds hope out to the despairing. Get ready for Christmas: tell the good news, let light shine on the hopeful happenings in humanity. In action, you can be the good news and therefore a beacon of hope. Make Advent choices that empower others. Thoughtfully give gifts, serve, create, or be generous. As you hold out hope to others through word and deed, you truly help prepare the way of the Lord!
Christ who is coming and Christ who is here now is the Light. Bright beams glow through the darkness. With this Light all things are possible, even glory out of our sinful lives. Gaudete!