Maybe confronts isn’t quite the right word, since multiple terrorist attacks in Paris and the deaths of some 120 people who were simply enjoying dinner or a concert – may not confront us.
Or a few hundred nameless lives lost when a jet is shot from the sky over Egypt – may not confront us.
Or dozens of others killed in just the last few weeks in bombings, shootings, military attacks – may not confront us.
They really should confront us, but it is easy to be uninformed. It’s easy to be distracted, too easy. But in the end such things do, or at least should, confront us.
Each winter as the year grows older, the song begins,
we each grow older too.
The chill sets in a little colder,
The verities we knew seem shaken and untrue.
Verities isn’t a common word, not a word we use very often, maybe not at all. But in the context of the song, I think we get a good sense of what the composer was speaking to – what we know, what we expect, the way it’s always been, what’s real, what’s true.
The verities we knew seem shaken and untrue — again!
That’s basically a matter of setting the scene, of stating the facts. Stating bluntly what we know all too well to be true. The world is not as it was.
It’s the next verse that’s even more unsettling:
When race and class cry out for treason – insert here the assorted and sordid tensions surrounding terrorism, refugees, immigrants, the recent unrest on university campuses and in cities, a growing disparity between those who have very, very much and those who don’t.
When sirens call for war,
They overshout the voice of reason,
And scream til we ignore all we held dear before.
The disruption of those verities – those truths. The cries for recognition, for justice, for righting wrongs – at whatever cost. The sirens of war, of retribution, of revenge. It all creates a cacophony of confusion, of fear, of uncertainty, of anger; a cacophony of unsure consequences that seems to have jumped right out of the pages of today’s gospel (Mark 12.38-44), anticipating days of tribulation, of darkness, falling stars and shaken powers.
But all of that comes with Jesus’ warning not to presume the imminence of his return, not to worry about when or where or how, but to be ready, to be prepared – not by joining the clamor of fear and hostility, but rather to be prepared by doing what Jesus was always telling us to be about.
To be prepared, in the midst of shaken verities – maybe because of them – by being about the ministry Jesus set before us – comforting those whose lives are shortened and diminished by poverty, illness, loneliness, mental illness, hunger and injustice; dedicating ourselves with greater determination to all the other acts of mercy that come with being a disciple.
Allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by this terrible thing or that terrible thing, by giving into the assorted cries – that accomplishes nothing.
Being servants, ministers in the name of Jesus affords us the opportunity to be signs of God’s abiding presence, God’s engagement and action in the world — a contradiction to the hostility, the clamor, the horror that can otherwise seem so prevalent.
The challenge, the hope that confronts us is in giving our attention to those who God might touch only through our hands; praying, as unsettling as it might seem, for our enemies, those who persecute us; striving to love as God loves.
The challenge, the hope that confronts us, as we’ll sing in the Advent hymn: to brighten today’s world by tomorrow’s, to catch our breath and turn transfixed by faith. TL
– Attribution credit: Rev. Penny A. Nash, Sick and You Cared for Me; William Gay, Each Winter As the Year Grows Older