by Carol Powell
One of the eighth-grade Confirmation students that I teach religion to made a startling statement. She said, “I think there is more evil in the world than good. Look at all the wars, all the hatred, all the killing.” I had to agree that this is how it appears. But I noted that often only negative events get into the news, not the myriad acts of love and service many people perform daily.
Truly when we watch TV and tune into the Internet we might be tempted to throw in the towel on Christianity, until we remember that it was precisely into such a dysfunctional, broken world that the Word of God became flesh 2,000 years ago.
God did not give up on humanity despite its depravity. Now, that same Word of God seeks to take flesh in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Advent reminds us of the long years of waiting the people of Israel spent in preparation for the Messiah. When He finally came many did not recognize Him because He was not what they expected. They were looking for a powerful, righteous Lord who would right the wrongs of their world and destroy the enemies of Israel.
Instead, He came as a tiny, vulnerable baby who was open to pain and abuse. Later, they wanted Him to conquer and defeat His enemies. Instead, He taught forgiveness and patience, and the turning of the other cheek.
Finally, He allowed Himself to become a victim of their evil. What kind of a God is this? It is not the God of armies and destruction whose coming we prepare to celebrate. Are we prepared for this paradox?
This is a God of vulnerability and peace, the kind of God most of the world considers weak. How do we celebrate and understand this mystery? Weakness and openness is actually the strength of God. No wonder many people worship the God of destruction and death. No wonder St. Teresa of Avila so aptly stated that the real God “has so few friends.”
The challenge of Advent is to look closely at the baby whose birth we are preparing to celebrate. He bears no arms. He opens His arms to all, the good and the evil. He loves all. He makes no distinction between races, nationalities and political agendas. He calls all to conversion of heart.
Everything is inside out according to the standards of this world. Those who seem weak are really strong. The outcasts will gain the kingdom. The powerful and those who lord it over others are really the weak ones. The meek and the powerless will inherit the earth.
This baby holds the world in one hand and an olive branch in the other. He looks deeply into our eyes and tells us, “Don’t be fooled by the powerful who promote hatred and fear. I have cancelled the usual order. The seemingly powerful are really weak and the weak who are filled with my Spirit will eventually triumph.”
The message of this Advent in the midst of terrorism, war and chaos is to hold firm to our faith believing against all odds that good will ultimately triumph over evil because the world was created by a God of love.