"The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills;all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks;nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Isaiah 2, 1-4 NRSV
Advent is upon us and that is a good thing. It is a good thing because it is all to easy to how God enters into this world, in dramatic ways and in less dramatic, everyday ways. For me, the last two months of Ordinary time are times of incredible busyness as I return to school after a two month break and get back to the busy routine of a thriving Latin program. Advent hits me just after report cards and just as deadlines for registering for extra-curriculars are just coming due. The coming of advent is, for me, a reminder to watch for the ways that God is entering into my life daily and how I very often miss it entirely.
It is, of course, very easy to get lost in the daily grind, so my experience is hardly an unusual one. Yet, I know that, for me, it is those daily advents which connect me to God and keep my perspective where it needs to me- off myself and onto what God is calling on me to be and to do where I am. Those daily advents connect me to those around me and keeps me from dwelling in my head and thinking that I am in control of the things and people in my life. Advents, whether they are of the daily variety or that of Christ, which, so far, is unique in human history, include more than a little layer of mystery because our sense of what is coming remains unknown until it is here. Who could have anticipated the coming of God's son in 1st century Judaea? And who expects the moment when the ordinary becomes extraordinary in the middle of a conversation or a class or a coffee with a co-worker, when the mystery of another person or of God's healing presence suddenly reveals itself unexpectedly? No one can plan for those little advents and, yet, they remain precious because they are the raw material for hope which is a precious commodity these days.
Yet, Advent is more than even these little moments. There are bigger Advents as the passage of Isaiah which I quoted at the top of this post suggests. This passage of Isaiah is familiar, of course, to any of us who hang around our churches during Advent; so familiar that I wonder if we really get the wonder of the vision. Amid the chaotic world of the last years of the Judaic kingdom and the exile which followed, Isaiah dared to dream of a time in which Jerusalem would not only experience peace, but it would be the agent of peace throughout the whole world. That is incredible, given the reality that Isaiah was himself facing at the time. And it hasn't lost its power over centuries of war and injustice in the world for both Jews and all people.
The reading of this passage at church today was also a reminder for me to look for the peace in the here and now. That, of course, calls me to face the injustice and hostility of others, but, even more so, my own. A few weeks ago, I had the occasion to reflect on my tendency to retreat into a stronghold to deal with my own failings as well as whatever difficult things occur to me from time to time. Now, that isn't all bad. We are constantly reminded that God is our stronghold, but I recognized that that defensiveness, occasioned by anxiety, also tends to cut me off from people and from finding ways to do good in the world. As I reflected further on this, a thought jumped into my head, just as the Eucharist was starting, that asked me 'what would peace look like?' And that thought has stuck in my head for the last few weeks. What this passage says about that question, I think, is not only that the weapons which my anxiety thinks I need will be transformed into the tools of peace and abundance, but, also, that I must rely on God's justice if I want to find peace, not on my control of the situation. And that is hard because I want to control things from inside my little fortress. The fact that my attempts to do that usually end badly is evidence of how effective a strategy that is. Perhaps it is time to trust in the new tools God has given me in order to get on with the work in front of me