A Season of Radical Hope

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Isaiah 2:2,4

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
Psalm 146:5-8

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11:6-9

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.
Matthew 11:2-5

The texts that we’ll be reading for the entire season of Advent are bursting with such a deep sense of hopefulness – this list of verses, as lengthy as it is, could honestly go on much, much longer – it’s only a small smattering of the true feast of texts assigned for this season. Advent starts off the new liturgical year in darkness, watchful and waiting for coming light. We look with hopefulness for the coming of the Christ-child – and beyond this, we look with hope for his coming again.

We often think and speak of this hopefulness in terms of our eternal salvation – of each and every last beloved child of God being redeemed and forgiven and welcomed into the kingdom – and indeed, we cling to deep hope for these things. But these prophetic voices from the scriptures point us to something greater still: a redemption not just of each human person, but a redemption of all creation. These texts – especially Isaiah – speak of radical peace, casting a glorious vision of God’s kingdom on earth, which Christ himself comes to usher in. Jesus himself actually frequently references and quotes the more radical, prophetic parts of Isaiah, especially when speaking about his own divine mission – taking after his mom, whose revolutionary song the Magnificat sings of this same radical hope.

Christ comes not just to save us individually, but to save this world, to turn this broken world upside down with a radical peace that is profoundly rooted in justice.

In these days of violence, when it seems like it’s impossible to turn on the news without hearing about another mass shooting, another bombing, another attack, another influx of senseless violence whose motivations are murky but whose aftermath is always the same – in these days, the profound hopefulness of Advent shines all the brighter. The coming kingdom of God isn’t about minor changes that aren’t too upsetting to the status quo. Christ comes to cast down the mighty, to lift up the lowly, to bring predator and prey, nation and nation, all creation together in love – to usher in a new world order of radical peace.

I long for that day – this season more than ever – for God’s kingdom of love and peace and justice to be fully realized at last. I long for the day when “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills, when “all the nations shall stream to it,” and, “Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that God may teach us God’s ways and that we may walk in God’s paths.’”

May this season draw us all toward this path of peace. And may the peace of Christ be with us all, this season and always.

image source

From a reflection first published in St. John’s December 2022 newsletter.

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