In the Christian calendar, Advent is a season of expectation and hope. My Advent season began this year with the most recent edition of WIRED magazine. It’s a thrilling edition, edited by the outstanding Bill Gates himself, who uses the opportunity to highlight innovations he believes are making the best and deepest impact in areas like extreme poverty. In the edition, Gates writes..
“A full 40 percent of Earth’s population is alive today because, in 1909, a German chemist named Fritz Harber figured out how to make synthetic ammonia. Polio cases are down more than 99 percent in the past 25 years, not because the disease is going away on its own but because Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk invented polio vaccines and the world rolled out a massive effort to deliver them. Thanks to inventions like these, life has steadily gotten better…”
and then he says something I even more deeply resonate with: “But it’s not as good as we wish.”
I love that, especial coming from Gates: “…we wish.”
Yes we do.
All of us do.
We wish things were other than they are – better than they are. We hope. And the season of Advent is exactly about embracing this hopeful aspect of who we are; the aspect of our humanity that, in my eyes, is the better part; “better” because even a man like Gates, who has everything he could ever need, is unsatisfied because kids he doesn’t know don’t eat or have access to education, medical care or clean water – he hopes and wishes.
I believe this expectant longing and hoping is what drives us, moves us, motivates us and carries us toward innovations like the ones Gates celebrates. We want better than what we have and we want it for people we don’t naturally belong to.
English essayist William Hazlitt wrote that “Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought tot be.”*
In a similar tone, author/philosopher Allister McGrath writes “We seem to have an inbuilt realization that things are not what they ought to be. We feel the pain of the tension between what we observe and that for which we hope.”
No one has seen a world without poverty. Yet we dream of it.
No one has seen a world without oppression and violence. Yet we long for that, too.
No one has seen a world without racial or gender inequality. Yet, we want this, even when we are on the dominant side of that particular inequality.
During the season of Advent, we are invited to attend to these better, more human and more glorious wants, longings and dreams.
And in our better moments, our dreaming, longing and wanting well up and spill into action. Advent is a season in which we are invited to attend to these better moments.
On Dec. 1 1955, Advent in America started with an act of expectant longing and hope when Rosa Parks got onto a bus in Montgomery Alabama and sat in the “white’s only” section, where she was not supposed to sit. In her mind, the world ought to be other than it was; black women and men ought to have the freedom to sit where they want without fear of being removed or beaten. Rosa Parks longed for a world in which black men and women were fully recognized as human and granted the same basic rights as whites.
Her expectation and hope welled up and spilled into action. Thank God.
May my hope be more than wishful thinking.
May I live in expectation of a world made whole.
And by “expecting” tomorrow to be that way, may I live out TODAY, the principles and patters of life I want to see tomorrow.
… and may tomorrow be a day in which none go hungry, none are enslaved, none are left behind and all know they are valued and loved by their Creator.
*I was certain that my friends dogs found me funny. Looks like I’ve been wrong.