My reflections on Advent have been profoundly affected this past week by the events in Ferguson and the way the mask of a post-racial America has been ripped off to expose the bitter and deep realities of racism and injustice. I’m not alone. #StayWokeAdvent is a thing.
Have you ever been stuck in a dark place with only a sliver of light or no light at all? You know those times waiting for news that could bring just as much struggle as it brings resolution? Remember the times of waiting and waiting, not knowing when the answers will come? Times of anticipation, of unknowing, of darkness before more light, are not always joyful, peaceful, or even largely hopeful. These are times of struggle, times of wrestling, doubting, mourning, crying, yearning, times of staying alert to the signs that light may be coming, that things are changing.
This is the time, the time of Advent, to stay alert…to “stay woke”…to your senses, your mind, your body, your feelings, your spirit to where to Spirit is stirring and leaning. Stay woke….to the impact your life has on others…Stay woke…to the injustice that we either contribute to or diminish…Stay woke….to the groanings of the world…Stay woke…to the humble, radical, empire-upsetting ways of Jesus…Stay woke…to the darkness…Stay woke…to the light…and to the sacred and profane in both.
But we do the Light a disservice when we underestimate the darkness. Jesus entered a world plagued not only by the darkness of individual pain and sin, but also by the darkness of systemic oppression. Jesus’ people, the Hebrews, were a subjugated people living as exiles in their own land; among other things, they were silenced, targets of police brutality, and exploitatively taxed. They were a people so beaten down by society that only a remnant – most notably Anna and Simeon – continued to believe that the Messianic prophecies would one day come to pass. For many, the darkness of long-standing oppression had extinguished any hope for liberation.
The Very Rev. Mike Kinman of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis has called on Episcopal Cathedrals (and other churches) to take some time in Advent to address the “he issues Ferguson has raised and where those issues of race, class and the oppression of God’s children are present in your community.” More information on that is here. Grace Church, Madison will be participating.
Also on Ferguson and Advent from David Bailey at the Missio Alliance:
The Washington Post has the story of the church apparently destroyed by arson this week in Ferguson and its pastor’s struggle to understand (Michael Brown, Sr. is a member of the congregation).