Advent is my favorite season of the year... as I feel it most keenly as I yearn for what is not yet but will be in the grace of God.. This week, I felt it especially keenly as I watched and read the news about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
I was struck as I put those attacks in the context of the Old Testament text for this the first Sunday of Advent where Isaiah says -
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence--
2 as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil--
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
It strikes me as a prayer for God's violent intervention into history against not only God's enemies but "ours" for we are the ones on God's side. I would guess that same kind of prayer was on the lips of those who murdered so many in Mumbai and who terrorized an entire city.
Elsewhere in Isaiah, we are presented with a very different picture where the divisions between us and them melt away in the fullness of God's kindom. In the best parts of the Christian tradition we see that God did in fact, come down, but it was not in wrath and violence, it was in grace and love and it was Isaiah's other dream that was filled full in the child of Bethlehem.
As I go through this season of yearning, it is my prayer that we will embrace that vision, that we will refuse the nightmares of violence and division, that we will embrace God's yearnings for the peaceable kingdom, shaped by God's grace and God's love. It is my prayer that Edward Hick's painting with its symbolism of the children and animals in front, taken directly from Isaiah, and also the native Americans and Euro-Americans sharing in the background, erasing the barriers between us and them and reaching out to those whom we most fear, become the vision we work for in our future.