‘In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered’ Luke 2:1
This is how Luke introduces the birth story of Jesus. As a result of this decree Mary and Joseph move from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the birth place of the shepherd boy King, David. Thus, the Messiah is born in the proper place, in a borrowed room in the midst of forced migration. In so doing the Roman Empire inadvertently brings about the fulfilment of a prophecy which will ultimately bring about its own subversion. Empire declares in such decrees its power to control and exploit at will. We counter them in these advent reflections with the contra-decrees of God’s upside down order, that send Jesus up against Empire, and his followers with him bringing Good News of Jesus and the change he brings.
Let us seek a moment
of quiet amongst many voices.
Voices which tell us
Of our world:
Profit is everything
Politics is pointless
Shopping is redemption.
Mexicans are criminals
Migrants are scum
Muslims are extremists
Black lives don’t matter
Women are toys
Queers are abnormal
The Earth is to be exploited
Resistance is futile
There is no alternative
Let us make room
for the broken reed to speak,
the rock to cry out,
the unspoken text to find its counter voice:
Though the fig tree doesn’t bloom,
though the olive crop withers,
though the sheep are cut off from the flock,
I will rejoice in the Lord.
I will rejoice in the God
of my deliverance. Habakkuk 3: 17 – 18
Empires like road and walls. They like to feel in control of space and territory. Empires like roads to be able to move goods around easily, and especially their military. And they like walls to keep people out and in. There is a whole chapter of human history that could be devoted to the walls of Empires. The Great Wall of China, the Walls of Great Zimbabwe, the Walls of Babylon, Hadrian’s Wall, The Berlin Wall, and now Trump plans to complete the wall Bush began and Obama extended between the US and Mexico. Israel suffered in slavery in Egypt building bricks with less and less straw for the Pharaohs’ walls, pyramids and roads, (Exodus 5). The security wall that now separates much of the Israeli and Palestinian territory excludes many Palestinians from their ancestral land and pasture, from their olive and lemon groves. The checkpoints like Erez herd, harass and hold up people and goods, so that Palestinian harvests rot in transit. CWM has recently begun to engage with the issues of the Palestinian people and to understand from their perspective that salvation needs to be understood as deliverance, as it was for the Israelite slaves in Egypt.
We light the first and second Advent candles
for the Palestinian people
For an exodus movement to bring deliverance
To all whose dignity, history and land is denied them.
The first and second Advent candles are lit
[A song may be sung here or a moment of quiet kept]
Decree of Love
Grow louder in light
And summon us to your side
That we too may tear down walls
And open the way to peace and life.