The Advent season comes cloaked in beauty, striding into the long, dark days of December wearing shimmering garments of hope, peace, love, and joy — and God knows, we need all of those things. We need to be reminded of just how much God wants for us, and the kind of lives God wants from us.

What God doesn’t want, and what we don’t need, is hate. There are very rare times in the Bible when a word as strong as “hate” is used, sometimes even with God as the subject, but the overriding message of scripture declares the Lord to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness …” (Exod. 34:6, quoted in Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15, 103:8, 108:4; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2).

I particularly like the Hebrew behind the phrase “slow to anger.” Literally, it means “long of nose.” The Hebrews thought of an angry person as having a shortened nose, with nostrils flaring. A more patient person, one slow to anger, was “long of nose.”

That’s exactly the opposite of what we see in the infamous cult of hatred that masquerades as “Westboro Baptist Church,” a collection of extended family members and other misguided souls who have been persuaded that God hates homosexuals and anyone who tolerates them. Not satisfied to hate in the isolation of their Topeka, Kansas meeting house, they feel driven to parade their bigotry before the nation, picketing at any number of places, including the funerals of gays, soldiers killed in battle, and now, Elizabeth Edwards

The group’s perverted sense of justice declares that God is punishing those who treat gays as fellow human beings by killing our soldiers, causing any number of tragedies, or giving Elizabeth Edwards cancer.

It’s sick. It’s just sick. There is nothing Christian about promoting hatred. Yet, because our country does believe in free speech, even this organization of animosity is allowed to call itself a “church” and to express its execrations in the most horrifying ways.

Thankfully Facebook groups and others have organized to out-protest the Westboro gang, and the number of those who loved and respected Elizabeth Edwards will far outnumber the small band of haters when the funeral is held on Saturday.

One might wish that the aging Phelps and his club of contempt would fade away, but if nothing else, their odious vitriol reminds us of how badly we need Advent, how desparately we need a Savior who will bring light to our world of darkness.

Welcome, Advent. Welcome, Jesus. Welcome, love.

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