Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Unlikely Prophet

December 8 passed as a day largely unnoticed this year.  What with the busy-ness of the season, it comes as little surprise, I suppose.  Of course, there were a few particularly zealous people who arranged their lives so as to give the day its due, but for the vast majority of the world, it was of little consequence that last week, December 8, marked the thirtieth anniversary of the death of John Lennon.  

All diatribes about hippies aside, I like the Beatles.  I have six CDs in my car's six CD changer.  One of them is a sung version of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, another a recorded version of the Rosary.  One is a talk delivered by author John Eldridge.  One is a collection of tunes performed by a local Christian Rock group and another a compilation of various songs that a friend passed on to me.  The one I listen to most often, however, is a collection of my favorite Beatles hits.  I am not much into their psychedelic stuff from later in the band's career, but I love a lot of the lighter songs - "I Want to Hold Your Hand;" "Here Comes the Sun;" "Life Goes On."

I am not much into Beatle Lore, and could not tell you about when or why they broke up.  I don't know much about the careers of the various members following the dissolution of the band.  I do know, however, that John Lennon managed to be fairly successful as a soloist, and that among the most popular songs from that part of his life was "Imagine."

As Advent moves along toward its culmination in the Feast of the Nativity, that song has come to mind several times.  The Utopian world that Lennon imagines without war and filled with peace and harmony among men is deeply resonant with the readings that we hear throughout this season.  His ideas are not far from Isaiah's prophesies of the lion bedding down with the lamb and the child playing at the den of the cobra.  There is a major difference, though.  Lennon, by the time he performed this song, was a communist, and deeply convinced of the possibility of man achieving a perfect world by means of his own power.  Time has demonstrated that such political views are profoundly unrealistic and almost impossible to achieve even in the best of settings.  The world that Lennon longed for all too easily became the disastrous world Orwell predicted in Animal Farm.  Man alone cannot arrive at the peace Lennon describes.  It is, as it were, the peace the world cannot give (John 14:27).  Such a world is possible, however, and it is for this world that we pray during this Advent season.

Herein, however, lies the difference.  My sin, the decisions I make daily, prevent such a world from existing.  Now multiply that reality by about six billion, and then multiply it to the Nth power to take into consideration the long lasting effects of the past sins of others that have developed into systemic evils in the world.  In doing so, one quickly realizes that we are utter failures as regards fixing things.  Insert, however, the cross of Christ into the equation, and everything changes.  In this season of Advent, we are called to consider anew the real need each of us has to allow Christ to apply the grace won by his death to the sinfulness that exists in each of our lives.  Already he has begun the work of bringing about the vision of Isaiah and John Lennon.  We can see this in many ways and places, but its completion depends upon man's willingness to be redeemed and to pursue holiness, and even these require the workings of grace.

Advent, with John Lennon, invites us to imagine.  It invites us to seek forgiveness.  It invites us to become holy, knowing that it was this that Lennon imagined without knowing it was called holiness.     


  1. thank you for making it personal, it's easy to say we want peace, not so easy to choose to live peaceably with family, friends, neighbors (esp those ones up north... lol)


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