A New World
We are waking up in a new world today.
I remember hearing those words on the radio as I drove to work on the morning of September 12, 2001. My eyes that morning were swollen from weeping, and my whole body ached with grief. Every car I passed on the street seemed indescribably precious, filled with people I loved, strangers whose lives were now intimately bound up with mine in the agony of our suffering. I didn’t need the announcer on NPR to tell me that I was waking up in a new world, but it still felt good to hear it. Everything had changed, and everybody knew it.
We are waking up in a new world today…
If we had a dream of a nation where there was a limit to how far people would go to satisfy their own hunger for power, where there was a widely held respect for the institutes of our democracy, that dream is dead this morning. America is not what we thought it was. Or maybe America is what we thought it was…when we woke up in the dark, fretting about our history and our trajectory, or felt our hearts tighten in our chests as we scrolled past news of another shooting, another injustice. The truth is that America has always fallen short of our promise. Centuries of courageous, clear-headed leaders, from Ida B. Wells to Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Harvey Milk to John Lewis, have shown us just how far we needed to travel to meet the promise of that dream. Today, it’s hard to know where we even stand on that journey, to predict what the ramifications of yesterday’s mob violence will be in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. All we know is that any dream of ourselves as a land of the free and the brave has grown even more dark and dim.
But my friends, there is good news. For we are waking up in a new world today. We are waking up with the songs of the Magi still ringing in our ears. We are waking up with the promise of the prophets warming our hearts – that while darkness shall cover the earth, “the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.” The light that has come into the world, the light that shines into the darkness and will not be overcome, the light that drew the Magi to a home in Bethlehem, the light of the Word made flesh, is a light that illumines a dream far greater than that of our nation. Even as I pray that our country will repent and return to the path of freedom, justice, and equality for all, I recognize that that dream is far smaller than God’s vision. God’s vision is that of the Magnificat, a vision of a world where none are hungry, none are oppressed, none are powerless, forgotten, or abused. And that vision, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, is already here. Not fully, of course – there is still work for us to do. But God’s vision, God’s kingdom, reigns now, in this place, a kingdom of justice, mercy, truth, and love.
We are waking up in a new world today, for last night, we had an Epiphany – that Christ has come to rule his people with righteousness and the poor with justice. That Christ has come to defend the needy, to bring relief and refreshment, like rain upon the mown field. That Christ has come, to this and every land, bearing the light of truth and love. That light is the same light that shines in your life, right now. Today of all days we can see how desperately the world, this nation, needs you to carry that light in faith, hope, and love.
We are waking up in a new world today. Thanks be to God.