WS Update: The Center Cannot Hold

December 4, 2023

William Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming,” includes the line: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” (The full poem is below.) This pessimistic prophecy finds resonance in our cultural moment when it seems like there is no firm moral, social, political, or spiritual center. Instead, to channel Yeats, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” This was the historical moment in which John the Baptist found himself, one where the old certainties had faded, replaced by brutal Roman rule. John’s message? Get ready, the old world is about to come to an end. Jesus is coming and nothing will ever be the same.

Preparation is at the heart of Advent. Like Lent, it is a time for Christians to look beyond the Rockettes and gift lists, and repent in ways that realign our lives to Christ’s second advent. This doesn’t mean some ascetic approach to what is a “most wonderful time of the year.” But it does mean taking seriously John the Baptist’s call to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). As Fleming Rutledge wrote:

The disappointment, brokenness, suffering, and pain that characterizes life in this present world is held in dynamic tension with the promise of future glory that is yet to come. In that Advent tension, the church lives its life.

So of course, “feel the merry” this month, but if you are a follower of Jesus find ways to bear fruit that alleviate the brokenness, suffering, and pain in others. That might mean getting together with someone who is struggling with loneliness, or serving those in our City who are far from feeling merry. Why? Because in doing these things you are preparing the way for Jesus’ return when all things will be made new.

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Luke 3:8-9

The Second Coming by William Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Lessons & Carols Is This Sunday

Lessons and Carols is a celebration of God’s redeeming work in our world through Jesus Christ. The story of the long-awaited Messiah is retold through Old and New Testament readings interspersed with the singing of Christmas carols and hymns.

We encourage you to invite friends, coworkers, and family members on this special Sunday!

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