By: Alex Hasha
When Emma asked me to offer a reflection on the spirit of advent, of waiting and preparing for a hope dreamed for, my first instinct was to tell you the story of how I met my wife Adria. But then, I thought, a self-congratulatory tale of how my dreams came true would probably be more fun for me to tell than for you to hear. So, instead, I want to share what I am waiting and preparing for now.
Like many of my peers, my youth was spent in a productive but effectively self-centered way. The first fruits of my talent and enthusiasm were spent on MY education, MY career, building MY family. And God was generous with me, giving me more than I even knew to ask for. So much, that I have an abiding uneasiness that it is more than I deserve and that it will be taken away.
And of course, it WILL be taken away, eventually. As the old euphemism goes, you can’t take it with you. As much as we want to deny it, every life is touched by transformative, often unwelcome change at some point. For me, Christmas is a season where I remember my father. Just before Christmas, in 2006, he died young and suddenly. We were very close, and losing our relationship felt like losing a piece of my soul. I also lost my youthful confidence that things will never change and that a peaceful old age is a sure thing.
Societal change is also unavoidable. If you have lived your whole life enjoying the unprecedented peace, stability, and prosperity that this era offers to the privileged, it’s easy to get the impression that the world owes you more of the same. That unwelcome change will happen to someone else. But think of World War II, the Russian Revolution, the Industrial Revolution… We look back on these now as well-worn bullet points in the study guide for our history class, but to the people living through them they were shocking and unexpected tidal waves of transformation. Whatever your beliefs about the fate of the universe described in the Book of Revelations, you have to acknowledge that its visions rhyme with episodes of upheaval that are common in human history.
Today, I feel in my bones that some new revelation is at hand, that the immediate future will surprise us. Everywhere you turn, a clamor of voices are predicting transformation: transformation of our climate, our political institutions and power structures, our technology, our shared values and traditions. Some of these voices are invested in making us fearful, so we will keep tuning in… exchange our rights for protection… put our heads in the sand and let someone else take charge. But we are not the first generation to face daunting challenges, and we will not be the last. God is at work in these moments. We have a duty to move beyond our personal hopes and fears and take action. And if you have to sacrifice a measure of stability and prosperity to do so, maybe that’s ok because, after all, you can’t take it with you.
So what I am praying for, in this season of waiting and preparing, in this season of transformation, is for God to help me see clearly what I should be doing differently. Specifically. Concretely. I know that small changes matter, like giving money I can spare or doing some volunteering. Small things add up to big things. Learning to see myself as a cell in the body of Christ has helped me understand that, while I can’t fix the world by myself, I have a role to play if I can find it. Maybe those small things are my role, but I must admit I am yearning for a bigger one. I want to discover how I can use the first fruits of my talent and enthusiasm to help build a better world for our children. I want to feel in my bones the connection between how I spend the best hours of each day and the coming of God’s kingdom. In the Gospels, Christ asks his followers for radical sacrifice, but in exchange he offers a clarity of purpose that elevates and soothes their souls. I want to be filled with passionate intensity to do God’s work.
I know that for my prayers to be answered, I have to do my part. I need to stop numbing my anxiety with rich desserts and Netflix. I need to read, and think, and write, and talk to people, and show up. But I also know I can’t do it without God. So, every day, I repeat the prayer that I learned in this room: Come, Holy Spirit, Come. As I thy house depart, may I be truly thine, that those with whom my life may blend may see thy face in mine.