by Teresa Donati
Advent is often referred to as the time of waiting, a time of expectation, knowing the Nativity is the beginning of a changed world. Still, there is anticipation, as there is with every birth: what will happen, will the mother come safely through, and will the world be enriched by the child emerging into this chaotic world?
We think we know the answer for Advent: yes, Mary will give birth to Jesus. But, the process, the time between the ‘now,’ and the ‘then,’ is filled with possibilities, some of them not so lovely in the history of the world.
That caveat is especially true of today, December 7th, a day which President Franklin Roosevelt said was ‘a day that will live in infamy.’ How chilling, to mark a day with the stain of sudden attack, a day that holds on the calendar the very mark of Cain: this is a day on which evil was done. It was the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked without warning, launching this country into a world-changing war. How appropriate, this Advent happening. We think we know what to expect, and then, a blow to complacency in the form of strafing bullets and targeted bombs.
Who, at 7:55 in the morning, is expecting a bomber to appear in the peaceful skies, followed by three hundred sixty warplanes? Who would expect the near destruction of a country’s naval fleet, the amazement that this attack would become a war involving the whole world?
There was much discouragement; the President had to push and insist, historians tell us, that the generals and strategists hold firm, that they remain steady in their faith, pretending if not feeling, courage amid disaster. It looked hopeless, but from resources of heart and mind, and from the commitments that are in essence deeply religious, that horrendous war ended in often-horrifying victory. Men who were conflicted over breaking the Commandment not to kill, had to do battle with an enemy determined to kill them first. Veterans of that war have rarely spoken of that deep agony, taking the lives of others, so many having been raised in a gospel of non-violent peace. And who knows what agonies were in the souls of the soldiers on the other side of the battles?
The commitment to stand steadfast, to fight even when the enemy had so many advantages, tells us the power of the Psalm (27:3):
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
Wonderful words, whose challenge is to live those words bravely. People of just about every nation, lost family in that war. And its battlefields were further extended into death camps that killed eleven million people, six million of whom were killed simply because they were Jewish, and five million assorted others for being religious, resistant, or in some way different from the lunatic derangement of an ‘Aryan’ norm.
We cling to the hope of the eventual outcome, not the immediate reward. Nine months to a child, years to a war’s end, all reflected in the waiting of Advent for God’s own conclusion to our wondering and struggles.