Week Four: Advent as solidarity
Scripture: Luke 2:8–12 (NRSV)
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
Question: What would the three titles given to Jesus have meant to the shepherds in their day, and what does each title mean to you today?
“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”*
Advent as Solidarity
ADVENT REMINDS US that we serve a God who intentionally chose to enter into our world and into our lives.
God did not have to, yet God elected to intervene on our behalf. Compelled by love, Jesus — in selfless abandon — forsook comfort, safety, and heaven’s shalom to stand in solidarity with humanity.
This costly decision was taken for granted by mankind. In spite of Jesus sacrificially taking on human flesh — becoming Emmanuel — he was rejected by those he came to save.
“I don’t understand what that has to do with me.” This self-centered mindset — that immigration is a Hispanic issue; that mass incarceration is a Black or brown issue; or that sexism is a women’s issue — is part of what sustains systemic sin.
He was the victim of state-sanctioned violence, torture, and crucifixion. Nevertheless, Jesus remained faithful to his mission, to God, and to his neighbors. This faithfulness, in the face of persecution, is what births our own liberation.
As Christ’s followers in the world today, how does this impact how we observe Advent? How is Jesus’ solidarity with “the other” prescriptive for us today? As Christians, are our lives not intended to be patterned after Jesus’ life?
We are not saviors (nor should we ever attempt to be), but we are co-laborers with Christ. As such, we are summoned to choose to be in solidarity with all the people that Christ loved.
Our choice to sacrificially stand with others who are downtrodden, voiceless, or marginalized can also birth freedom and liberation. We do not have the power to rid the world of sin itself, but we do have the ability to lift people up from the effects of sin in the world.
My heart breaks every time I hear Christians respond to the effects of systemic sin by saying, “That’s not my community’s issue. We have our own issues to deal with.” Or I hear, “I don’t understand what that has to do with me.” This self-centered mindset — that immigration is a Hispanic issue; that mass incarceration is a Black or brown issue; or that sexism is a women’s issue — is part of what sustains systemic sin.
When I take the incarnation of Christ seriously, I am forced to conclude that Christians — a peculiar people who elect to stand in solidarity with our neighbor — are called to enter in, even when we “do not have to.”
When we choose solidarity — especially at the expense of privilege, comfort, and social status — for the good of our neighbor and the furtherance of the kingdom, we become more Christ-like. Choosing solidarity is a spiritual practice that prompts us to look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others.
We do not have the power to rid the world of sin itself, but we do have the ability to lift people up from the effects of sin in the world.
This season reminds us that we live between Christ’s two comings. We live in response to Jesus’ first Advent, when he inaugurated the rule and reign of the kingdom of God here on earth. As we await his second coming, we are not just idly waiting, twiddling our thumbs and passing time; we are called to wait with expectation and in anticipation.
We are called to active waiting. Our waiting prepares us, and the world, for Christ’s return. We wait in the mold of John the Baptist, preparing the way for the Lord. How we wait ultimately dictates how we live, and we are called to wait with purpose.
Dominique Gilliard is the director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the “Love Mercy Do Justice” initiative of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
*“Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus”
Music: Beach Spring (The Sacred Harp), adapted by David Anderson
Text: Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
SPU vocal and instrumental ensembles