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Advent Part II: The Call to Be Honest About My Part

Advent Part II: The Call to Be Honest About My Part

December 4, 2022

Matthew 3:2. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

It’s easy to notice and name behaviors that someone else should repent of. Politicians and other public figures are easy targets, but stories also abound of ordinary people behaving badly: travelers argue on airplanes, customers shout in check-out lines, diners harangue servers, drivers rage on roadways. I admit feeling judgmental about such people. I resent the fear and anxiety their angry confrontations evoke. I abhor the loud, cheap words that distort or hide the truth. I feel—well, maybe a little holier-than-thou. I wonder why everyone can’t be reasonable and civil—you know, like me.

But the truth is, some days I don’t feel terribly reasonable or civil. Maybe I try my best not to make a public scene, and maybe I try to be discreet about what I say to whom, but the truth is that, in my own heart, there is a loud, rude voice that yells. A lot. It bemoans the negativity of the world and the [insert your choice of judgmental adjectives here] politics of people whose thinking differs from mine. It decries the apparent failure of “them”—people in the “other” group—to understand the various threats to health, to human rights, to our economy, to our environment, to our democracy. Which is to say, it decries their failure to understand these issues the way I do. It’s a voice that can keep me stirred up, keep me off balance, prevent me from dropping off to sleep at night, and wake me too early in the morning. This Advent season, I’d like to repent of the time and energy I give my rude inner voice. I’d like to silence it, or at least tone it down a bit, as a way to prepare my heart to receive the Babe who is sometimes called the Prince of Peace. But how?

One of my favorite Advent carols, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” gives me an idea. “Emmanuel” means “God with us.” Christians associate the name Emmanuel with Jesus, of course, but longing for the presence of the Holy is not exclusive to professing Christians. To the best of my knowledge, people of all faiths—and of none—yearn for contact with, or comfort from, something greater than themselves, whatever they call it—Adonai, Allah, Buddha, the Numinous, the Divine, the God of Their Understanding.

And so, when my own angry, negative, judgmental voice begins stirring within me, even if I cannot turn it off completely, perhaps I can neutralize it a bit by singing, or whispering, or simply thinking to myself the phrase, “O come, O come, Emmanuel”—just that simple phrase. When I see an angry, negative post on a friend’s Facebook page, or watch a politician let loose with hateful rhetoric at a political rally, or stand by feeling helpless as a stranger spews vitriol in the grocery check-out line, I can silently pray, “O come, o come, Emmanuel.” O come, o come into this broken world. O come, o come into the ways we speak to one another. O come, o come into our environment and our uses of natural resources; into our economics and the way we share financial resources. O come, o come into our families, our neighborhoods, our systems and structures. Come, o come and quieten my fear, my frustration, my anger, my condemnation of others. Come, o come into my heart.

Maybe by praying that way I can do my part to help keep peace. Maybe by invoking the presence of the Holy, I can be quicker to love, not judge, my neighbor. When and how might you use such a prayer?

—Angier Brock


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