ADVENTageous: Tragedy Plus Time

ADVENTageous: Tragedy Plus Time December 4, 2014

This the growing edge of Advent: to take a time fraught with stress and damaging expectations, and instead use it for spiritual growth and good work in the world.  I’m sharing my attempt to grow through this season, rather than deplete my every ounce of energy; and to share good news, rather than just sharing Made-In-China stuff. Care to join me? Send in your stories, and I may share some.  

A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of unarmed Eric Garner .     In the wake of recent events in Ferguson, this new verdict seems impossible to process. While preachers, teacher, parents and other breathing humans all over the place stammer for words and understanding, John Stewart brought a chillingly concise commentary: “If comedy is tragedy plus time, I need more f**g time. But I would really settle for less f***g tragedy.”

He’s the court jester. He can say hard things in real and powerful ways that many people can’t say to their bosses, their children, their students or their congregations. Because he is ‘supposed’ to be irreverent. He laces the truth with comedy so it won’t hurt so much. He is called upon to be disarmingly prophetic… to speak the truth in a way that can be heard above the din of other would-be prophets, poets and preachers…because his comes with a gut-punching laugh. It makes people perk up and listen.

Y’all… when the court jester gets serious, it is REALLY time to pay attention. Maybe it’s because I’m an English major and I’ve read too much damn Shakespeare.  And Stephen King… But when the voices of satire grow solemn, I hear something vaguely apocalyptic rumbling in the background. It is the sounding death knell. Of something.

I can only hope that whatever’s about to die is something that needs to die. And that it is making the way for something new to be born.

That’s what Advent is for.

Now the needle is stuck on these words, and I hear them over and over and over. Like a holy litany of advent desperation. “I need more time. I need less tragedy.”

And then I think of all the ways we might take these words to the wilderness with us. Take them out to the desert where they can become the life that is trying to be born.

Faith is tragedy plus time.

The gospel is tragedy plus time.

Resurrection is tragedy plus time.

We need more time. We need less tragedy.

Time, we’ve got. 4 weeks. 4 weeks to wait, and watch and listen in hope. Four weeks to speak the truth, however humorless or hard it might be. Four weeks to embody the love and mercy that might save us, after all.

As for all the tragedy, I’ve got nothing hilarious to add. (I don’t even have a cute video of kittens sharing a massage. OF COURSE the white kitten is getting the massage!) Nor do I have anything profoundly poignant and somber that will make sense of it all. Systemic racism; a culture that worships violence; whacked-out power structures; poverty and entitlement and fear of the other; all wrapped up in a twisted Christmas bow that is somehow both Shakespearean and biblical—with more than a little Stephen King thrown in—that’s what I see when I watch the news. It is apocalyptic and literary and darkly intriguing. I’ve got no commentary but hope; a hope that all the dark intrigue is a gruesome thing breathing its last, out in the desert. And a loving, joyful thing about to be born in the darkness.

Less tragedy. More time. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

God with us. Emmanuel.





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