Streetcar Line

Now the Advent

Leave behind our annus horribilis.

By 12.1.08

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Rejoice, rejoice: Emanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Here's the situation, people: Politics right now is depressing. The national news is depressing. The government bailouts are depressing. The internecine fights among Republicans are depressing. The internecine fights among conservatives are depressing. The thought of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is profoundly depressing. The craziness of Wal-Mart shoppers who would trample a store worker to death is depressing. The horrible terrorism in India is far worse than depressing.

Rejoice, rejoice: Emanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

This has been an awful year for conservatives. John McCain won the Republican nomination. John McCain ran an utterly inept and dishonorable campaign, and the leftist Barack Obama won the presidency. A Republican president and his appointees at the Federal Reserve and at Treasury badly mishandled a rolling credit crisis, exacerbated rather than healed a panic, and engineered a series of outrageous bailouts and buyouts while saddling generations of taxpayers with the bill.

William F. Buckley died. Tony Snow died. Peter Rodman died. Alexander Solzhenitsyn died. Jesse Helms died. One year and a day ago as I write this (a year and two days ago as you read it), Henry Hyde died. And Bob Novak has been stricken with a brain tumor and we pray for his recovery.

Rejoice, rejoice: Emanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Russia has gone authoritarian again, aggressive, and vicious. Iran is going nuclear. China continues to be repressive. Pirates (pirates, in this day and age!) successfully ply the Indian Ocean -- and, to a lesser extent, oceans worldwide, including in the Americas.

Rejoice, rejoice: Emanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Israel -- ah, yes, Israel. Israel is beleaguered. Always. But perhaps even more now than usual. Its prime minister is a lame duck, on his way out of office amidst a scandal. Its strongest international supporter, the United States, is hobbled by doubts caused by a financial panic, and the incoming U.S. president's commitment to Israel (a few bits of rhetoric aside) is in some doubt. And Iran rattles its sabers at Israel while Hamas sits perched in Gaza.

Rejoice, rejoice: Emanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The world is too much with us, late and soon. The center has not held, and the worst are full of passionate intensity. We are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven. We wind up wounded, and not even dead. I have to turn my head until my darkness goes. The lone and level sands stretch far away…..

And yet…. And yet….

Rejoice, rejoice: Emanuel shall come to thee, O Israel….
Oh Come, thou Wisdom, from on high.

And yet we in the Christian tradition believe that the things of this world pale in comparison to the marvelous things of the spirit which are to come. Especially here in the United States, where we just celebrated Thanksgiving, we see this bleak time of year and can only be grateful, and hopeful, and confident in the Advent of grace and light. In the Jewish tradition, too, Isaiah's teachings (and others) tell of redemption -- in some forms of Judaism, in the shape of a person as Messiah, who has not come yet but surely is coming; and in other forms of Judaism, in a Messianic age. Either way, if Christmas is a uniquely Christian celebration, then Advent, in its broader meaning of an expectant preparation for redemption, is a season where Christians and Jews can share Isaiah's belief that "all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God…announcing peace, heralding good tidings."

We believe, because we already have seen manifold examples of survival despite suffering, of obstacles overcome, of hope rekindled, of joy emerging miraculously from sorrows. In the civic realm, we Americans especially believe, because we have been so mightily blessed already. From Valley Forge we made it to Yorktown. From the burning of James Madison's White House we found victory outside of New Orleans. We bungled Dred Scott but issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Pearl Harbor begat Iwo Jima and D-Day. Sputnik spurred us to Apollo and the Moon. Malaise gave way to Morning in America. And, lest we forget how spectacular a triumph it actually was, we helped a Wall come down while leaving its Soviet sponsors on the ash heap of history.

But again, the civic realm is as nothing next to the gifts of the spirit our faith tells us to believe in. Or, what is more quotidian but still in many ways more important than affairs of state, we spend this season, from Thanksgiving all the way through the New Year's arrival, celebrating hearth and home. The love of human for human may be a weak imitation of the love of our Lord, but it springs from the same source and is itself powerful enough for wondrous things. And if even that love is not enough, Isaiah tells us that "the Lord God shall wipe the tears off every face."

Our blessings as Americans -- freedom, plenty, beautiful lands, great leaders when times were tough -- sustain us, and our faith and faiths sustain us even more mightily. We know we have always had a rendezvous with destiny, and that knowledge gives us solace and strength. Advent is upon us. O come, o come, Emanuel.


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About the Author
Quin Hillyer is a senior editor of The American Spectator and a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom. Follow him on Twitter @QuinHillyer.