Advent, day fourteen.
There was an article in The Guardian yesterday, describing some of the work of the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, following him on his fact-finding mission to examine the inequality and poverty that exists in the USA, the richest nation in the world. If you can bear to read it- you should.
It is a description of what happens when a nation declares war on the poor, at the same time as giving tax cuts to the already super-wealthy. Open sewers. Hookworm and other diseases normally only seen in the slums of the poorest parts of the world. People living in tents for decades with no benefits and no hope of better alternative.
Let’s not kid ourselves that this is only relevant to people living in the US. Our cultures are intertwined. Ideas that are pervasive in the US shape us too. They become ‘common sense’. In the US, the American Dream imposes a logic that suggest that everyone can succeed, if they are willing to work hard. Therefore, government spending that uses public money to assist the poor is seen as iniquitous,. The poor only have themselves to blame. Consider then, how this idea sits within our own welfare system, in a time of austerity.
In the article, someone uses the term ‘the violence of looking away’. We should take it on board, as if it was an antidote to the American Dream, or the British ‘skivers versus strivers’ equivalence.
There is hope to be found in the fact that there is a resistance. In the US, as described in the article, this sometimes comes from within the church.
I make no apology for bringing us down with a subject like this on our advent journey. Today’s poem celebrates the fact that Christmas is ultimately about the coming of our God to be amongst the poorest and weakest of us.
It is about a God who rejects the violence of looking away, replacing it instead with incarnation.
Open the sky
Open the sky and let some light in
Let this night be night no longer
Let stars shine down in shafts of love
Illuminating the ordinary things
All down with dirt and common use
Let donkeys laugh out loud
For now the basest things
Are all silvered up in grace
Lubricated with kindness
For he is coming
Not to penthouses, or to plump our cushions of comfort
Or to stroke the fragile ego of celebrity
Not to strengthen the armies of the powerful
Or to expand their empty empires
Not to shape a new cathedral from seductive certainty
Or to doctor our old doctrines
He is not coming to the exclusive religious few
But to you;
The mess of you
All your brokenness
All your failure
He comes in the certain knowledge that
You will fail again
So open the sky and
let some light in