Thursday, December 18, 2008
"Steadfastness in a spasmodic era".
Reading a book recently - well as you do. Came across this comment about a poet's work which demonstrates "steadfastness in a spasmodic era". Just another of those cat's eye reflector phrases that throws back light enough to point the way ahead. If Advent is about waiting, it's also about light, the direction of our lives, the road we travel, and believing God knows what on earth is happening and what is happening on earth.
Imagine then, Advent faith is about steadfastness, slowly enunciated, the three syllable solidity of God's promise - steadfastness. Just to repeat the word - steadfastness - pronounced with thoughtful trust, enunciated as slow released hopefulness, wonderingly prayed as both petition and praise. The word suggests a process of thinking and perceiving the world that questions the rapid fire appraisals, pragmatic adjustments and short term loyalties of this spasmodic era.
Steadfastness can be a matter of perspective, a slow but lived contemplation of the long view. The steadfast spirit is unmoved by the apparent priority of the necessarily temporary, is learning to resist the seductively transient, more and more questions the misleadingly urgent, is becoming tone deaf to the absolutist dictats of change - in other words to working hard to kick the habit of the spasmodic.
The people who walked in darkness didn't redefine darkness as something that when you get used to it can, by a verbal sleight of hand, be called good. Nor can hope ever be the end result of a gradually built up tolerance for darkness. Hope is the steadfast gaze towards the horizon for those first hints that night is giving way. Hope like love, is patient, but linked to justice for others becomes love impatient and therefore faith learning to live with longing.
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has light shined."
Advent then is a time for purposeful waiting, a call to faithful hoping, a provocation to impatience tempered by trust, a season for passionate prayers that condense into vigilant steadfastness of faith, looking for God's coming. In an era of spasmodic shifts in the spirit and goals and mood of our culture, and at a time of short-termism in relationships, social planning, financial and economic policies, maybe one of the more radical expressions of Christian witness would be through communities of faith which talk up and live out steadfastness. Faithfulness in relationships; love as persistent goodwill; not becoming weary in well-doing; kindness as long-term friendship; compassion as dependable supportive presence amongst the vulnerable.
All of which depends first on the steadfastness of God. "Unto us a child is born....and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.... and the government shall be upon his shoulders..." In a spasmodic era, steadfastness is a counter cultural stance. The redemption of a broken world, and of broken hearts, is neither easy nor instant. The steadfast love of God is eternal in its patience, infinitely adaptable to need, inflexible only in its determining purposes of mercy shaped by grace. It is this grace upon grace that enables the community of Christ to live as Advent people in a world of spasmodic uncertainties. Steadfast hopefulness and persistent compassion, embodied in acts of costly kindness and undeflected friendship, all the while gazing towards the horizon because the day is coming, and with it the light of the coming of the glory of God...."and the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us, and we beheld his glory, full of grace and truth."