Three Flames

Crumpled and forgotten, the notebook pages were begging to be unfolded. Jagged-edged, each page bore the engaging rounded script of a child. “Human beings are greedy and selfish. They are responsible for all the hate in the world and have caused discrimiantion, racism, and cruelty to the LGBTQ…Human beings are horrible creatures…” Every word dripped with hardcore experience, and a weight too great for the young to bear alone.

There was a logic to it, an echoing reality founded on 2020’s agonies. But there was a wistful sadness as well, a sense of resignation. The Third Sunday of Advent addresses that very sense of hopelessness, the darkness that overwhelms and defines who we are and what we are about. In contrast to the greed and selfishness so visible to that child, the readings from the Third Sunday of Advent offer hope and promise. In an era of science, skepticism and secularism, these readings offer comfort in ambiguity, a path in uncertainty and a hope in these unsettling times.

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11 describes the experience of the presence of God, the sense of joy in that, and literally partaking in that presence. There is no doubt here that each person, animated by the Spirit, is part of the parcel of the presence of God.

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

 

There is more, of course. In the Gospel, John the Baptist invokes these very words. He also acknowledges his small place in the universe as he lives out his call. This third week is all about living and being which entails seeing the goodness in ourselves, the slivers of God in the sparkle of an eye or the beauty of a touch. The flicker of these three flames invites reconsideration of greed and selfishness; each literally calls us into service to one another without a focus on self. Each flame illuminates the path ahead, a path that opens up a vision beyond the present and that promises meaning and purpose. After all, at the best of times, life is challenging and frustration can be overwhelming. But at this time, the simplicity of faith and the joy of knowing love offers comfort and hope. All is not lost. Discovering the goodness of humanity against the backdrop of a pandemic is not easy. The possibilities are there!

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