It saddens us to be so alone, to be unable to share with anyone what moves us....Above all it saddens us that we are so cut off from each other, that there are always such different worlds — you in your house and me in my house, you with your thoughts and me with mine. This is simply not the way life is meant to be, this separate life we all lead. But with one single change we could have infinitely more joy and good fortune and righteousness among us, if we could open our hearts and talk with each other." - Karl Barth "To Believe" Advent MeditationKarl Barth's Advent meditation illuminates the disconnect we all feel, a fragmentation that becomes particularly acute during the Holidays. Even the prospect of reuniting with family can be overshadowed with dread because of an ongoing rift. We could go to a restaurant or bar by ourselves or even wander into a church. We might be welcomed cordially, because that is what businesses and organizations are supposed to do to. But we really don't expect the relationship to extend beyond that context.
The reality is that most of our relationships derive from utility. We are cordial enough obtain what we need from others. But we cannot, we dare not share our hearts with each other. The fear of rejection and lack of connection are overwhelming. Even though we ought to be of the same heart, we don't believe or trust that we are.
Because of the distance between people, any attempt to nudge us in a certain direction ends up utilizing the psychology of the masses. To our ears, to my ears, it feels like manipulation. Which is exactly what happens in the culture at large. Marketing. Marketing is how organizations manipulate a mass of people they don't care about. So where we should be a witness over and against the culture we end up being subsumed by it. That is what the culture believes about the church and rarely do we prove it wrong.
The Advent of Christ is the story of God closing that distance. He enters the human condition and shares it with us. The Kingdom of God moves near! We aren't just hearing a story, we are sharing the story! Christ comes not with a list of demands, but a path that He invited us to share. It is a journey with a common destination. If we find our commonality in Christ, then our differences and distrust should fall away.
So what will we do about this? What would be our response as believers? Perhaps Barth's message can give us some answers:
Believing means that what we listen to, we listen to as God’s speech. What moves us is not just our own concern, but precisely God’s concern. What causes me worry, that is God’s worry, what gives me joy is God’s joy, what I hope for is God’s hope.
Imagine if everything were brought into this great and proper connection, if we were willing to suffer, be angry, love and rejoice with God, instead of always wanting to make everything our own private affair, as if we were alone.
Just imagine if we were to adopt everything that gratifies and moves us into the life and movement of God’s kingdom, so that we personally are, so to speak, taken out of play. Simply love! Simply hope! Simply rejoice! Simply strive! But in everything, do it no longer from yourself, but rather from God! Everything great that is hidden in you can indeed be great only in God.
We can choose to speak from faith and not fear. We can take the leap of faith that God moves us by His Spirit and that His Spirit will resonate in others. We can live in anticipation of finding men and women of peace. We can exercise a faith that generates good will. We can make those choices and bridge the gap of mistrust and hate.