It is a curious thing when events collide, or fall into place, or compliment one another, or shed a light upon one another. I have been considering setting my next novel in the season of Advent. The downside is the season is usually too busy to attend to the manuscript first draft. But the remarkable upsides collided today, on this Second Sunday in Advent when the Church considers the final judgments, individual and general.
It is a subject most run away from, for good reason, for it is a painful thing to examine one’s life with the eye of our Creator. Scrubbing clean can sometimes hurt. And yet we are told there is a law, a standard, by which we shall be judged.
So what were the other events that collided with Judgment Day?
December 7 is the eightieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. One of the themes in my novel-in-progress, Return to Angel Mountain, considers those who served in the Pacific Theater in World War II, with research based on my father’s experience in the navy on board the U.S.S. Phoenix, in thanksgiving or the service of these courageous sailors.
Another event this month is the Supreme Court case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which revisits the constitutionality of the Roe v. Wade decision (1972), opening the possibility that abortion law will be returned to the states.
And so, how will the Last Judgment judge this case? Especially considering the scientific knowledge we now have, unavailable in 1972, ultrasounds that show the child in the womb from conception. Will these children be allowed to live in the future?
I considered these things in our chapel today, as we heard Christ’s voice in the Gospel lesson:
“AND there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh….” Luke 21:25+, BCP, 93.
With redemption, comes judgment. With judgment, comes law. Do we have the right to take the life of an unborn child? Some ask, “What would Jesus do?” I believe he would choose life, the life he had created for a certain purpose, to live on this earth to his glory, each life loved to the death and into life again.
There are times when we must trust in God, his purposes, his love. There are times when we are pulled in two directions, or three or four. Many women know this, that they have been granted the greatest gift of all, to bear new human life within their bodies. Yet they also sometimes fear their own lives spinning out of control. Today we are told career comes first. We are told a house and financial stability comes first. We are told we have too many children already. We are scolded that the planet is too crowded. We are told to sleep with anyone and abort children conceived. Men are told they need not marry, need not commit to another. Why bother, the chorus screams, in this culture of self, of me, of un-love.
Sounds like the script from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters.
I considered today the drama of these times to come, described by Our Lord in the Gospel, and I considered the monumental events of the times today. I recalled those who fought for our peace and freedom, who gave their lives for us to live, breathe, form families, worship in church. They were brave, these men and women who fought for us, who answered the call to arms after Pearl Harbor. They kept us safe. They chose the right, to fight the wrong.
Judgment is all around us, birthed in every choice we make. To say our choices do not matter is to deny God’s everlasting love and lifegiving spirit among us. Every breath matters.
I recall my bishop, Bishop Morse, of blessed memory, often said that “nothing is wasted.” This can be gratifying when we do right with no one seeing, but it can be terrifying if we slip or slide or do wrong with no one seeing. And yet belief in a God who cares for us so much that he desires us to be good and to live with him forever in promised mansions, who loves us so he died for us and offers himself again and again to walk alongside, leading, guiding our every choice.
Bishop Morse also often said that when he finished his confession, he would complete the list with, “I have not loved enough.” For love is the root of all goodness, all right action, all righteousness. Love – sacrificial love – is the heart of the law.
And so as I considered Advent today, this season of silent valley fogs muffling our mornings in the East Bay, this season of cold winter, short days, and long nights, I thought of Angel Mountain where the hermit Abram lived, died, and lived again. I thought of the sound of silence, the quiet when words are no longer spoken, or songs no longer sung.
We are in the winter of our national life, here in America. We have seen our country fight again and again for right action, and the old demons rise again and again to try and trick our people into wrong action. Nothing changes on this earth, at least in terms of good and evil. But we can make a difference with every desire and deed that we own. For nothing is wasted.
Last Sunday we faced death and what that means. Today we face the judgment of our life. Next week we look to our final destination, Heaven, determined by our death and judgment. The last week, the fourth Sunday in this wintry Advent season, we look to Hell, the place of darkness, the place without God, without love, the abyss, full of meaningless chaos.
Advent is a season of preparation for the coming of the Son of God. We cannot prepare without being judged. We cannot be good without knowing what goodness is. We shall see one day what the highest court of America, of our land of freedom, will do with this monstrous evil that moves among us. How will they judge this thing that slithers and hisses in the dark? Will they say yes to life, no to murder? How will our nation respond to this judgment?
We await the coming of Christ in Bethlehem. We await the second coming of Christ in the last days. In this mean-time, we welcome the coming of Christ into our hearts to love us with his judgment and mercy, redeeming us out of our time and into his eternity by the wood of the Cross, by sacrificial love.
Come Lord Jesus, come.