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Advent, part 2: Why Do You Long for the Day of the Lord?

Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord!

Why do you long for the day of the Lord?

That day will be darkness, not light. — Amos 5:18

During the chaos and discouragement of the past election season I heard several friends declare that they were disappointed in all the choices open to us, and they just hoped the Lord would come soon to set things right. In discussions of living faithfully and sustainably off the grid I’ve heard people talk almost longingly about the coming of some crisis or other that would bring our crazy economic system to a screeching halt, end its wastes and abuses, and (perhaps not least appealing) force people who had been happy consumers to acknowledge that their off-grid friends and relatives weren’t crazy after all. Sometimes I look around me and despair, and want something dramatic to force us to change because I don’t feel much hope that we will voluntarily stop polluting our air and water, or pushing consumerism and promiscuity on our children, or waging wars in order to get more than our share of scarce resources…

Many of the Old Testament prophets seem to have felt similarly. Habbakuk asks, “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?” Isaiah cries “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!”

But Amos says “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord!” This may seem a strange statement at first, but as I think more about what it means to hope for salvation to come to us catastrophically, from outside, it makes sense. However frustrated I am with the current system, I can imagine the chaos and suffering that would result from its sudden unraveling. I know that crisis can bring communities together and sharpen people’s focus on the things that really matter. I also know it can foster paranoia, rage and extreme selfishness. Crisis unmistakably reveals what we really trust and who we really are. I at least have a lot of work to do on both fronts.

When I am dismayed by injustice I try to stop expending that passion in anger at other people; to use it instead to move myself out of my own fear, selfishness and false securities; to practice faithkeeping for the small demands God makes on me in daily life and the greater demands God may make someday.

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