Happy Epiphany. The coincidence of Advent and the 21st meeting of the U.N. Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP21) was a serendipity of the most awesome order. As humanity becomes exponentially more violent and bent on fowling the only nest we have, I become exponentially more drawn to tales of hope born amid chaos. And today the season of Epiphany (when the Magi arrived at the manger scene, then headed back to their own countries to bear Good News), coincides with the journey of the wise men and women of our world, who’ve been to the sacred gathering in Paris, with the survival of the world in the balance, and have headed home to save the World.
The Advent tale is born of the witness of some really obscure piss-ant peasant prophets claiming to be spokespeople for the Divine. They announce, as the Prophet Micah did, that the world of God’s dreams is more than a distant pie-in-the-sky but, damn-near present. The day is coming soon, Micah proclaims, when:
They will beat their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation. Neither will they learn war anymore. In fact, in that new regime, every family will sit beneath their own vine and under their own fig tree with none to terrify them.
-(Micah 4: 3-4)
The Advent dream and the vision of the Paris Talks spring from the same promise: that we can retool and repurpose economies of greed and machineries of violence into regenerative policies, industries and strategies of justice and redemption.
Mary is pregnant with this vision as she sings (Luke 1: 51-56) with her cousin Elizabeth of that new order where “the hungry will be filled, the proud scattered, the poor raised from ashes and the rich sent empty away.” She and Joseph take their pilgrimage to Bethlehem, the House of Bread, to see if the world as they know it could really conceive of a new regime, birth a new policy, bring a new way of living to full term.
The pilgrimages of the Magi, ancient and present are the same. The Magi, the wise ones of our time, each from their own country drew nigh as the stars alined. The whole world watched, hoping against hope that this time would be different: more than business as usual…more than a new generation of Herods threatening to behead the first born of all who care. More than the next generation of 1% fiddling “Happy Days Are Here Again” while God’s Creation slides unceremoniously into the crapper.
All during Advent, millions of us around our Holy Planet invested in this promise. We showed up to rally in solidarity with the endangered and marginalized who suffer first and most from global heating: to hold our Climate Magi’s feet to the fire as they convened in Paris. Debbie and I were privileged to participate in three marches. I shared earlier of the Salem to Paris march. On December 6, Oregon Interfaith Power and Light, along with other Portland interfaith groups, sponsored a climate pilgrimage to synagogues and churches around downtown Portland. At each stop, we heard the faith witness of rabbi’s, priests and teachers.
In front of First Baptist Church, the pastor started by saying, “I bet some of you are asking, ‘What’s this? A Baptist speaking out for God’s Creation!?! You probably think we’re all about a personal relationship with Jesus and getting to Heaven when we die!’” But as he spoke, backlit by the PDX skyline and a row of wind generators on the rooftop of a distant skyscraper, he assured us that he wasn’t that kind of Baptist and the only Heaven he was hoping to see was right here on Earth.
Our third march was December 12, in the pouring rain across the Willamette at Tillikum Crossing. All the right folks were there, sharing their stuff. We were energized to the beat of LoveBomb A-G0-Go. The animals were represented and the trees and the fish.
A surprise speaker was a proxy for Pope Francis who shared words from his Encyclical on the Climate saying: “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth!” He called us to a deep conversion of economy and spirit. As we sang our Climate Hymn, “Now, Now, Now,” author and friend Kathleen Dean Moore sent us off with words of courage:
When our grandchildren ask, “On December 12, 2015, where were you?” We can answer, “We were here in the street. We were here for you!”
The ancient tale says the Magi chose to travel home by an alternate route to the one they had planned when they came. That choice was their best gift. And that was their Epiphany. In Advent our hope for COP21 was that something so miraculous would come to birth in Paris that our world leaders would have a Come To Jesus moment of the highest order. Our Epiphany dream is that they decide they have no choice but to lead us home by a different path than was planned coming in. And they decide to act Now, Now, Now.