Advent is the season in which we talk about hope. We talk about living in expectation. We talk about being prepared. The lectionary features verses like this one from Matthew: “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Chosen One is coming at an unexpected hour” (24:44).
I confess that I don’t feel ready. I feel frustrated. Our country has been at war for years, and there is no end in sight. Cruel killings have become commonplace in our consciousness—in Iraq, in Israel, in Palestine, in Darfur. And these are just the ones that make it to the front of our awareness and newspapers. We see on every side systemic violence against the Earth and all her creatures, against the poor on the streets of my neighborhood and around this country, and against the global poor through unjust trade policies.
Can you see why I am frustrated, saddened, depressed, and exhausted? And I know I am not alone. Not in this city, not in this country, not in this world. So here I am, not ready for Advent, not full of hope or expectancy.
In 2004 I attended a conference in Sweden called Tools for Peace. I went seeking possibility and the unexpected. There I heard Rabbi Eliyahu McLean, whose life work in Israel is bringing together Jews, Christians, and Muslims, both Palestinians and Israelis, for shared space and dialogue toward peace. He explained how his teacher, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, never sought “the solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but rather emphasized working for and establishing possibilities for peace in the midst of the ongoing conflict.