Advent, in the Christian calendar, starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and runs until Christmas Day. During that time, we prepare for the coming of Christ, both in the sense of preparing for the festival of light by which we mark the birthday of the Christ Child, and we prepare to welcome the divine presence into our own lives. We look forward, in hope and expectation, for the dawn of justice, the completion, the hope embodied in the words: "Your kingdom come, your will be done".
This advent season, two things happened that gave me hope. Two isolated news stories that lit up a season of hope, like the first faint blue glow in the sky at the end of the night, by which we who have stood the night watch can keep our faith that the day will come.
- The governor of South Dakota, Mike Rounds, has proposed measures to shield the sacred mountain called Bear Butte from inappropriate development, and in particular from the bars and party-oriented campgrounds associated with the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
The most objectionable of these campgrounds will have much less rowdy partying this year, after its owner lost his liquor license.
- The legislature of New Jersey abolished that state's capital punishment statute. While various states have stopped executing people under orders from the courts, as New York did, or because the number of innocent people condemned to die had grown unbearable, as in Illinois, New Jersey marks the first American state in a long time to have the people's representatives look at the proposition of capital punishment and reject it; to give up the option to take life in the name of the public. That marks a first, and I believe, or hope, that it marks the beginning of a real moral change. Perhaps when the Governor of New Jersey spoke of "evolving standards of decency, he did not speak of merely one judicial punishment in one state, but for an evolving consensus that we will not solve our problems by killing people.
I will have more to say on these and other matters as 2007 winds down and a new year arrives. I wish you a well of whatever festive season your tradition celebrates; I wish my fellow Christmas a blessed Christmas, and for all of us, a new dawn of hope.