Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Uncle Tom's Cabin and Advent

Uncle Tom & Eva
Uncle Tom’s Cabin has more heroes and more villains than any book I have before read, and, for the most part, the characters are consistent with one of these two roles. Two of the most endearing and beloved characters – Tom and Eva – are clearly both heroes in the story. The reader grows to love Tom: a character who is unrelenting in his willingness to sacrifice his own self, security, and safety for that of others and for his Lord Jesus Christ. But the reader also falls in love with little Evaline St. Clair: a young girl who is sickened by the inhumanity of slavery and is willing to do something about it. Little Miss Eva is constantly seen playing with those whom her culture dictates as less than human.

There are so many things that could be said about this book (and so many have already – Abraham Lincoln attributed the beginning steps to emancipation to this narrative), but one scene in particular grasped my attention this Advent season. If you have not read the book, and you plan to in the future, you may not want to read on. Otherwise, please reflect with me on this Advent image.

Chapter 26

Tom, at last, would not sleep in his room, but lay all night in the outer verandah, ready to rouse at every call…"You know it says in Scripture, 'At midnight there was a great cry made. Behold, the bridegroom cometh.' That's what I'm spectin now, every night, Miss Feely, - and I couldn't sleep out o' hearin, no ways."
"Why, Uncle Tom, what makes you think so?"
"Miss Eva, she talks to me. The Lord, he sends his messenger in the soul. I must be thar, Miss Feely; for when that ar blessed child goes into the kingdom, they'll open the door so wide, we'll all get a look in at the glory, Miss Feely."

We have here the image of Tom waiting, without regard to image or comfort, outside of little Eva’s room , all so that he might get a glimpse of the bridegroom comin’ at Eva’s death. Compare this with the reading from Romans 13 from Advent 1:
11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near.
Uncle Tom knew that he would see something remarkable. He was living in a state of anxious expectation, hoping to merely get a glimpse of the glorious life to which his friend Eva was journeying to. How much more for those of us who believe that this kingdom has already come? Do we not walk everyday with the hope of the reconciling/redeeming work of a Savior?

The image of Tom lying outside of Eva’s room in eager expectation is engrained in my mind as an image for Advent this year. Advent traditionally invites us into dual hope: a remembered hope that Israel had for its Messiah to come, and a hope for the final coming of the kingdom of Christ in the future. Let us also hope to see the door of heaven opening up here and now, as we seek to share with the poor, the oppressed, and the widow that “the kingdom of God has come near.”

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