Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Unsettling Advent

Advent is more likely to unsettle and upset before it is embraced as hopeful and transformative
"He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty." - 
Luke 1:51-53 

As we move through the weeks of Advent, I am aware that the news in the Gospels is--or should be received as--unsettling, unnerving, threatening, undermining, dangerous and ultimately unraveling for those invested in the domination system that is America's stock in trade.

It is the good news/bad news that judges the proud,
those who take advantage of others,
who use people,
who exploit "markets" (as if they didn't involve real people),
who enslave via interest-laden debt,
who control via pressure politics and intimidation,
who deny equal opportunities,
who set the rules for advantage of the rich,
who turn the other way when they are aware of injustice,
who measure only by efficiencies,
who act on the misshapen principle "might makes right,"
and who justify any means by the ends they produce.

In this light, it is not so easy to sing Christmas carols blithely, disconnectedly, nostalgically, naively.  Instead, a chill runs through me as I sing "the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ."  Or, "chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease."

Advent, instead of being a sweet comfort for the American church, is a direct confrontation with its embrace and sanctification of the status quo of domination, of empire--however unwittingly we may do so.  Advent is a most unsettling season.  Buckle your seat belts.  Who knows where this wild ride ends?

Graphic is by Jan Richardson at The Advent Door

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 

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