When we commit to resting during Advent, some of our longings arise. When we move more slowly and are more observant, we may also come into contact with the longings of others.
Post-election, and into Advent I have been reading African-American poetry. These poems are beautiful and gritty and they demand an emotional response. Below are two in particular that have grabbed my attention:
Written by Robert Hayden
When it is finally ours; this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action: when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.
Written by E. Ethelbert Miller
i will take the
would be better
to be packed
like spoons again
than to continue to
knives and forks
In these days, there is still so much hate, and that hate starts with me. It starts with my ignorance, my fear of another, my unwillingness to grow and change, my fear of vulnerability. In this very hate, Christ was born. People weren’t paying attention. Divisions existed.
To some, Christ is born so commonly, without recognition. And in his birth, he asks us to give up power and to embrace a life of listening and quiet, so we might start to hear the voices we have been ignoring.
To others, Christ is the balm of relief, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He is brother and friend. He is the one who has been oppressed, who has been misunderstood, ignored, hated, shunned and abused. He has come to bring solidarity and comfort. To those weeping, He says, “I’m sorry and I’m here.”
As many of us are still grieving post-election, and trying to hope for better tomorrows, you are in good company. Yet, as Robert Hayden says, politics are the not the true means of achieving freedom. Freedom must truly start with my own heart, with making eye contact with a stranger, with desiring a diversity of friendships.
Advent’s message of freedom comes in the form of a baby, a vulnerable baby in need of protection, comfort and love. Freedom sounds like vulnerability:
- “I don’t know what your suffering is like, but I want to listen and hear your story.”
- “Could you help me see my own blind spots, where hatred and prejudice linger?”
- “I’ve never told anyone this before, but could you listen to some hard parts of my life?”
- “Help me! I don’t know how to help myself.”
As we rest, slow down, and linger, may we realize both how much we are loved, and how much division there exists in this world. We all on some level desire freedom, and in diverse relationships may we discover that we all need and are needed. Advent in so many ways, actually teaches us that we think too much of our own importance, and we really just need help.