Voices of Our Past: St. Augustine  |  By John Thornton
Week 1, Day 5  |  December 3

According to St. Augustine, goodness and evil do not exist in the same way.

Goodness exists because God created it. Evil is only the absence of the good. Darkness does not exist; it is only the absence of light. However, because of the Fall there is no longer any pure goodness in the world. All of creation is devastated by the Fall and so all of our relationships are a mixture of light and dark, good and bad. Our marriages, our friendships with others and God, our jobs, even our worship is devastated by the disorder of the Fall. Though we try, we just cannot seem to order our lives with God’s love as the first priority. For Augustine, this is how we are to look at our lives: as undeniably good but utterly devastated.
What does any of this have to do with Advent? First, it means that the goodness of creation is greater than the devastation of the Fall. God has not left us alone. Even though we sit in waiting for Christ to illumine our world, we can still look to goodness wherever it exists and know that we do not wait in total darkness. If anything exists, it is made by God and must have some grace and goodness to it. So we find what is good in things and offer thanks for them even when we struggle to see their goodness. Second, we ought to celebrate any goodness we find in creation, even if it comes in surprising places or from people we did not expect. We remember that Christ came in a manger and the angels appeared to shepherds. By looking for light in unexpected places, we prepare our eyes to see God’s beauty coming as a baby in the most inauspicious of circumstances. In this way, we learn to see the ordinary or what we might have thought of as dark and scary in the light of God’s goodness and offer thanks.

PRAYER:  Lord God, giver of all that is. This day give me eyes to see your grace and beauty all over this devastated world. My I be so bold as to proclaim your goodness even in those and to those who do not believe it exists. And may that vision transform me more into the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

John Thornton is currently serving his first year of  our congregation’s newly formed first Pastoral Residency program. John grew up in Texas and is a recent graduate of Duke Divinity School.