I tweeted that I hoped #OccupyAdvent was space for rediscovering social justice themes in the New Testament stories of Jesus’ birth. After looking online for more information, I was a bit disappointed. According to an interview with #OccupyAdvent’s founder on OurChurch.com, the purpose of the effort is to “to help churches and Christians use social media tools to talk about the meaning & mystery of Advent.” He goes on to say that what he “would like to see is Christians using the power of social media to change the conversation of the “holiday season” – away from the shallow commercialism and toward the power of waiting and watching.”
I believe that Advent is and should be about more than “watching and waiting.” It should also be about “working” with the hope that we are agents of God’s healing, reconciliation and justice in the world.
Last December, I wrote the cover article for our church’s monthly newsletter. I introduced some of these themes then and went a little further (I think, anyway) for this year’s newsletter. I’ll post the new one when we get it on the church website, but for the time being, check out my attempt to help my worshiping community begin to engage the social justice themes of the Christmas story.
“A Christmas Message”
EPFM Crosstalk: A Publication of East Point First Mallalieu United Methodist Church
In the 2006 motion picture Talladega Nights, comedian Will Ferrell plays the role of race car driver, Ricky Bobby. during the film’s now famous dinner table scene, Ricky Bobby leads his family in blessing the food. He thanks “Lord Baby Jesus” for the “bountiful harvest of Domino’s Pizza, KFC, and always delicious Taco Bell,” thanks “tiny infant Jesus” for his family and friends and prays that Christ would use his “baby Jesus powers” to heal his father-in-law’s leg. When Ricky Bobby’s wife and father-in-law remind him that Jesus grew up and became an adult, he alerts them that they can pray to whichever Jesus they want, but he likes the Christmas Jesus the best!
Though not to the extent of Ricky Bobby, I am sure that all of us have a special fondness for the “Christmas Jesus.” During the Season of Advent, Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day through the “Hanging of the Greens,” lighting the Advent wreath in Sunday worship and singing Christmas carols that testify to the fulfilled prophecy of Jesus’ birth. We sing “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Away in a Manger,” and “Joy to the World” to remind ourselves of and share with the world the true reason for the season: the birth of Jesus Christ!
My prayer is that as we prepare for and celebrate the birth of Jesus this Advent, we remember that Jesus’ birth is a realized hope. As in our time, over 2,000 years ago, there was much pain, suffering and sin in the world. The birth of Jesus was a joyous occasion, because it was a reminder to a suffering people that God heard their cries and answered their prayers. When sharing with Elizabeth that she was chosen to give birth to Jesus, Mary sings the Magnificat, a testimony to the work God has done through the coming of the Messiah. She sings:
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’ (Luke 1:52-55)
Just like the descendants of Abraham, God hears our prayers! Advent is our reminder that our prayers were answered through the gift of the “Lord Baby Jesus” and that God is still at work reconciling us to God and each other with hope, love, joy and peace. As we prepare for and celebrate Christmas this year let us know that God is moving powerfully through that “tiny infant Jesus” who was born over 2,000 years ago!