. Advent is the built in space in the life of the church (the beginning of the liturgical “year”) to enter into the narrative of Christ’s “Advent” (or “coming” or “in-breaking”) into our world, in-time-and-history, to make possible a new way of being, to bear witness to a new age. As Josh Graves has said, this season has “teeth” because it is an intentional look at the New Way that is breaking into our world, it is a season of anticipation that a new day is dawning, a light in the midst of the darkness. And it defies the old aeon, the old age, the Way of darkness of which we are all slaves.
This morning, as I read through Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, I was confronted with the sharp political implications of that 1st Advent. The best way that I can think of to name these “political implications” is to hold them up in light of the political landscape at Jesus’ birth. I would say it this way:
“In the midst of a very public sexual scandal…
In the midst of a religious debate about how to deal with sexual misconduct outside of marriage…
In the midst of covert political manuevering, dirty & underhanded poltical fear mongering, and politically motivated genocide…
In the midst of widespread panic & fear…
In the midst of governmental power-plays & border expansion…
In the midst of despair, and poverty, and gender-biased networks of social discrimination….
In the midst of spiritual hoplessness about when the Messiah will come to reign and set things right…
In the midst of weakness, shame, bloodshed, violence, scandal, and political jostling for postition…
… a Messiah is born. The true king. (Which means, as Rick Atchley has said, “that the illegitimate sovereignty of all other kings will be short-lived.”)
And to add scandal to scandal, the One, the Light, the King of Kings, was born a helpless child, in a shabby manger, in a shabby barn, to a powerless girl, and a powerless man, from a place of ill-refute, into a family with no financial power, little community influence, no religious clout, with a lineage full of sin and prostitution. And this infant changes everything. This child is about to turn everything on its head. Welcome to the King who sees the world upside-down. Welcome to the upside-down kingdom of God. Meet your Messiah.
“And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”