Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent judgment

Russian icon of the Prophet Amos (from Wikipedia)
Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals - they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way; father and son go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned; they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge; and in the house of their God they drink wine bought with fines they imposed. - Amos 2:6-8 (NRSV)

Advent always begins with judgment ... and we are always found wanting. Not much has changed in the 2,700 years since the Prophet Amos lived in Judah.

Yet how else can anything new begin, but with an assessment of the way things are right now? An alcoholic receives an intervention: this is a judgment. An overweight person steps on the scale and decides to begin dieting and exercising: this is a judgment. A child is sent to her room for being rude: this is a judgment. 

Thousands of people pitch tents on Wall Street and throughout the streets of America, not to get a jump on a new movie or on Black Friday sales, but to attempt to force a change in the way America's financial systems work -- or, rather, don't work. This, too, is a judgment.

In this way, Advent is like Lent. We give an honest look and judge ourselves, and then we begin to make a change. We hear two particularly common pieces of advice in Advent: (1) Stay awake. (2) Slow down. These come from two logical judgments: (1) We've been asleep. (2) We're going too fast. Perhaps we've fallen asleep at the wheel. If so, the time has definitely come to follow this advice.

Most Americans have a very negative view of judgment. Yet how else can change ever begin? Today, take an honest look at yourself, not in the interest of self-help, but in the interest of helping others. How have you been asleep at the wheel? What blocks you from thinking of others before you think of yourself, especially the strangers in your life? How can you help them this Advent?

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