Seeking a gracious spirit
How the faithful city has become a whore! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her — but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your wine is mixed with water. Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow’s cause does not come before them. — Isaiah 1:21–23
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? — Romans 8:35
I used to skim over Scripture passages that didn’t seem “holly jolly” to me during this supposed “holly jolly” season. After all, who wants to hear about once faithful people losing their way to the point where God’s wrath is invoked? I don’t ignore these passages anymore. Maybe it’s a sign that I’m getting the wisdom that I heard comes with age. While I can’t be certain of possessing such wisdom, I’m certain that Advent is not a time to skim over the evil and injustices of this world. If anything, Advent is a time to face the darkness, holding on to God’s promised light. And as we confront the injustices, we must remember to have a “gracious spirit.”
Howard Thurman spoke of this gracious spirit as one that doesn’t gloss over the stark, brutal nature of evil. Rather, he said a gracious spirit was what helped him see clearly and stay mindful that “even as I resist evil, I share the guilt of evil.” In his book, “The Mood of Christmas,” Thurman wrote: “I am aware that the Light not only illumines, but it also burns.”
Chris Singleton, a former professional baseball player, has a gracious spirit. His mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was one of the “Emanuel Nine” — the men and women who were killed in the June 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Amid the carnage, the world not only learned about each of these people, including Chris’ mom, who was said to have a deep faith and a smile that lit up a room. The world also learned what forgiveness looks like as family members spoke words that elevated love over hate. Sadly, this would not be the last act of violence against people of color in the United States.
Seeking a way to honor his mother and to keep a conversation going on how important it is to set aside differences, Chris, on the fifth anniversary of the shooting, released a children’s book, “Different.” The book, he told a local newspaper, shares the message of the importance of love and unity, and how we need to celebrate each person’s uniqueness. Like Howard Thurman, Chris Singleton isn’t ignoring the evil in the world, but is seeking “a gracious spirit in dealing with the injustices of the world.” May we join in seeking that spirit as well.
Loving God, we thank you for the gift of Jesus, your Son, who modeled for us the power of forgiveness as he died on the cross. Help us remember we are all standing in the need of grace, and that the greatest gift we can give this season is to find ways to elevate love over hate. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Today, let us do two things that are very difficult to do: First, let us confess how we might be adding to the injustices in this world. Second, let us commit to moving forward in ways that elevate God’s love for all.
Donna Frischknecht Jackson