Advent’s Awakening – A Prayer for those of us who prefer being the offended one

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“Owe no one anything, except to love one another…” Romans 13:8

“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is that they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”  James A. Baldwin

O God, why do you ask us to love people whose opinions, politics, and words are offensive and even hurtful?  Does this mean you are asking us to pardon those – within our families and beyond – whose rhetoric is inflammatory and actions reprehensible?  By living into your commandment to love, are you asking us to excuse the undermining of institutions, laws, and practices that sustain us as a people, nation, and citizens of the world?

In other words, why are you saddling us with this burdensome commandment – loving others unconditionally – when so much is at stake?    

Yet in this season of Advent, you tell us that “now is the moment for us to wake from sleep…[and that] the night is far gone, and the day is near.” (1)   Having clung to antipathy and being the offended one for so long, what if these are not evidence of awakeness but self-numbing slumber?    What if anger that fans the flames of hostility, actually shuts us down?

O God, you have been described as one, “who will come as a thief in the night, when we least expect it.” (2)  If this is so, and I believe it to be true, then make haste, Lord, to loot what I have hoarded for so many years.   Take my deep-seated resentment, self-righteous indignation, and despair at the seeming futility of it all, and in your mercy, purge my inmost self of all it. (3)  And in its place, remind me over and over again that you loved us first, and that this love is non-negotiable.

[1] Romans 13:12

[2] Matthew 24:42-43

[3] Matthew Johnson, December 1, Advent 1a, (Christian Century, Nov. 6, 2019)

Author: Jessica McArdle

These are dark and corrosive times. As a writer and ordained minister with the United Church of Christ, I use prayer, poetry, reflection, and scripture to re-align our embattled spirits with the uniqueness and urgency of our God-given identity and call.

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