The season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, started last Sunday. 

It seems this year to really be a second Lent: pandemic, lockdown, unemployment, violence, depression. 

No wonder people are willing to risk their own health as well as Grandma’s to once again gather as families. 

As I write this, Colorado’s governor and his husband are in quarantine and Chaffee County Public Health has announced that the county will go to level Orange Friday evening. 

Hospitals around the U.S. are talking military-style triage to handle the numbers. 

A prayer for the first Sunday of Advent, worldwide for Anglicans and Episcopalians, is taken from verse 13:12 of Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”

The striking antitheses are remarkable: cast away darkness, put on light; mortal life, life immortal; great humility, glorious majesty. 

The word “now” is crucial: remembering the first advent (the Latin word means “coming”) and looking forward to the second, we are now, in this time, to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

On Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech began as more scholarly than soaring and when he stumbled on a line that he didn’t think would work, he began to riff off his speech. 

It was just then that the preacher heard the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson crying out from behind him. 

“Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream.” 

Dr. King glanced at her and launched into the words that have now become hallowed in our American history: “I have a dream.”

“This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” Then he puts together the words “faith, transform, together, one day.”

If you prefer, remember Bruce Springsteen’s song “This is your Sword”:

“Brothers and sisters listen to me

These are the few things that I leave to thee

This sword of our fathers with lessons hard taught

This shield strong and sturdy from battles well fought.

This is your sword, this is your shield

This is the power of love revealed

Carry them with you wherever you go

And give all the love that you have in your soul.”

That’s how we get through this: hope and love, faith, transformation, together.

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

He never said it was easy.

The Rev. Dr. Mike Fay is rector of Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Salida.

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