By Leeann Younger
“Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”-Isaiah 43:19a
My answer to this question today, on the second day of Advent, 2017, is “no.” I definitely cannot perceive God’s “new thing.” During Advent we anticipate the coming of the One who is Light to this dark world. We’re told this is the Season of Hope. But I can’t stop thinking about Puerto Rico. Millions of people on the island have lived without electricity for nearly three months. How do you stay hopeful that the light will come when literal darkness persists for so long?
I feel like I’ve been watching a different kind of darkness grow all around me this past year. The dog-whistle racism of “Make America Great Again” gave way to a shameless, hood-less, tikki torch protest and a riot in Charlottesville. The egos of the American and North Korean leaders are pushing the whole world closer to an unimaginable nuclear incident. And we are on track to finish this year stuck in a news cycle overrun with stories of a Congress eager to shred the social safety net and still refer to the process as a Christmas gift for America.
Our present cultural darkness is a cloud that separates friends and divides families. As an act of self-defense, some of us have become experts at avoiding truthful conversations with the people we love. Others of us defend ourselves by weaponizing a favorite sound-bite. We’ve forgotten, it seems, that we are all victims in this dark time. How do we, together, wait faithfully for the Light of the World when the darkness makes it hard for us to see each other at all?
I’ve stumbled forward in this cultural darkness for over a year now. I’ve tripped over my pain in conversations about privilege and power with white friends who can’t see the world that I see. I’ve whispered in this darkness with friends of color and female colleagues about the treacherous terrain ahead. We all know we need each other as the demon of systemic injustice gathers strength from the policy decisions that drive our national narrative. In the past year I’ve withdrawn from a lot of spaces too. I’d like to say that I’m at rest, in my own personal chrysalis; that my transformation is underway and I will emerge more powerful than ever. But the truth is that I’m just tired.
Nevertheless, something deep inside convinces me to stay on the road, no matter how dark it gets. I’m bolstered in my journey by the truth that days of Advent always give way to the celebration of Christmas. It might be dark right now, but I know that the Light is on the way.