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Afghanistan and Advent -- December 2, 2009

I kept looking for light in President Obama's speech last night. I may have seen some, but in this early morning darkness, I am not sure. The pundits are proclaiming -- and I, and I suspect many of us, are pondering. Will the President's plan work? Is it just? I know the President wants us all to see light in the darkness that has enshrouded our military engagement in Afghanistan, and I deeply admire him for expressing that desire. It is complex, confusing -- and much as we might like to wish otherwise, it won't go away.

In the northern hemisphere, Advent comes at a time of deepening darkness, a darkness which culminates with the shortest day of the year on December 21. The ancients developed a practice to respond to the growing darkness of the season: light a candle. The tradition of the Advent wreath brings light (the candle) and life (an ever green bough) into the home when the deepening darkness and cold is telling the psyche that neither will survive.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5) Light destroys darkness. So we look for light. We look for it, claim it, celebrate it -- and build on it. Not an artificial light that we think we can turn on and off at will; not a light of false optimism -- but a true light, Christ's light, which shines in everyone.

The Advent promise is that the light is there.


Mark, you've packed a lot of thought-provocative material into three brief paragraphs. I wasn't planning to read Wisdom Distilled from the Daily, but now I find I want to.

I approached Tuesday's speech from the opposite direction -- I've never wavered from my support of either war (Afghanistan or Iraq). I voted for the other guy, but Obama is my president now. He's not the commander-in-chief I wanted, but he's the only commander-in-chief we have, and I want him to succeed in that role.

So I was looking on Tuesday night for some sign that Obama is actually committed to winning in Afghanistan. I'm not convinced of his commitment yet, but I'm open to persuasion. At the very least, he has lit (lighted?) a candle.

And I'm pleased that he's got skin in the game. For better or for worse, it's Mr. Obama's War now.

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