“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”—Malachi 4:5-6
Crisis reveals who we really are, as people and as communities—our love and our selfishness, our trust and our fear. As we prepare for possible crises we need to purify our hearts and hone our practical skills. We also need to practice reconciliation, so that when hard times come we will be prepared to view the people around us as brothers and sisters rather than potential threats, so that we can help each other instead of blaming and fearing each other.
Such reconciliation is sorely needed today. In the face of growing economic and environmental instability our nation seems to be splitting along fault lines of ideology and class and race, with people on each side blaming the others instead of looking at the harm and the good done by their own lives. As cooperation wanes and hostility mounts our networks of trust are weakened and our ability to perceive the whole truth is diminished. When we do not turn out hearts to one another we curse ourselves, curse each other and the land, with our blindness and our fear.
As we celebrate Advent we remember God’s incarnation in Christ. Let us also remember to look for Christ incarnate in the people we meet—in our brothers, in our neighbors, in the people who make demands on us, in the people who oppose us–so that in all our encounters we may bless one another.