What if in our most honest moments we admit we really want things to stay the same? Republicans and Democrats posture as though they want a new way – a post-partisan solution to what ails our out of sight spending habits. Really, they just offer another illustration of Black Thursday-Friday. We can just spend our way to a better place.
Markets initially thought these two groups could get together and keep the economic train from running off the cliff. News out of Washington suggests maybe not. More of the same will only result in leading us to the same predicament that sparked this mess, gridlock.
Most of us easily find a political group – party or lobby – on which to pin the problems we face. Reed is not happy with Republicans happy talk. Democrats have been portrayed as Thelma and Louise, just run it off the cliff. But, it seems they simply mirror our habits. We complain about not having any money yet spend as though we print it ourselves. The government can at a cost to us. We cannot print money, but we continue to spend at a cost to us. You get it; the cost is always to us. Why would we not want something different? Why would we not hope for something better?
We look for efficient causes. Our fingers point to the other party, the other economic philosophy, the other worldview, or the other [fill-in-the-blank].
Consider our national health. We know what contributes to our increased need for medical care – overeating, a lack of exercise, smoking – to name a few. Yet, we see very little move toward lifestyle changes that would reduce our overall costs and increase the quality of our lives. We fear change.
Or from another vantage point it is about excluding God from our culture. The war of words will fire up soon, if they have not already. Christians will exclaim that “Happy Holidays” proves a secularizing agenda by supplanting, “Merry Christmas.”
Yet, the energy exerted in a cultural war of words still leaves people jobless, homeless, and imperiled. Were we to really be interested in Merry Christmas, we would undertake material expressions of our ethereal, esoteric convictions. That you miss Merry Christmas in response to your greeting at the cash register hardly comports with living in sacrificial service to others.
We need an eschatological revival. The Church does not need an apocalyptic cipher. We need not a rapture, but a rupture. We need to be reminded of final causes the sort of which pull us into the future. Celebrating the Season of Advent constitutes an occasion to reconsider our commitments to the way things are. As Justo Gonzalez writes with regard to the gospel,
But the fact of the matter is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is unintelligible without eschatology – without the hope and the promise of a coming order of love, peace, and justice.
Too often Advent is viewed as little more than an exercise in candle lighting. The fires that should be lit during this preparatory season turn on longing, anticipation, and the expectation that things will be different. Absent the need for new ways, new dreams, and new hopes, Christmas remains about little more than baby Jesus.
Safely tucked into our manger scenes we forget that despite Ricky Bobby’s preference for tiny baby Jesus, the world needs the good news of an inaugurated new world to come. We may not know the full extent of the to come of the new age, the new world. But, we have more than glimpses in the Story of Jesus – the narrative of the cross-dead-now-living Jesus. It is the picture Jesus painted in Luke 4 then illustrated in the canvas of his life.
Advent without eschatological hope fails to set the table for an understandable announcement that in Jesus there will be peace on earth among people. When nothing changes and nothing is promised to change there can be no good news.