The past few years have felt like a movie plot that keeps tossing up complications just as you think the journey home is ending. We believe we are getting back to normal, and another variant appears; first delta and then omicron. We think one round of vaccination will end the pandemic, and now we need additional shots. It’s exhausting and, on some days, even disheartening.
But as public health officials keep saying, there are many reasons to be optimistic. We are in much better shape to manage a viral variant now than we were two years ago. We know much more about COVID, how to mitigate its spread, and how to treat it when people develop symptoms. In big ways and lots of small ways, we’ve made progress. It’s frustrating that it’s not over yet, but frustration is a much better place to be than to be helpless and without options.
History is that way too. Bp. N.T. Wright in his book “Surprised by Hope,” offhandedly remarks that because of Our Lord’s Passion and the working of the Holy Spirit in the world, history has a direction and a purpose to it. Things are happening in the world, and while moral progress and transformation can be frustratingly slow, when you step back, it is breathtaking to see how far we have come. History is moving us to a moment when heaven and earth will be joined together, and all the pain in this world will finally end.
Advent is the time of year when that hope is foremost in our prayers and our hearts. This quiet, dark time at the end of the year is a season for us to look for the quiet, constant work of the Spirit in history. We remember that Heaven surrounds us and that Jesus is at work, binding up the wounds of Creation and releasing us into a new life we cannot yet see but to which time will soon deliver us.