ADVENT 2017: A reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent, 17 December

by Sr. Teresia Wamũyũ Wachira, IBVM
Pax Christi International Board member, Kenya

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11 | Resp.-Luke 1:46-48; 49-50; 53-54| 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 | John 1:6-8, 19-28

EMMANUEL – COME AMONG US UNTIL WE BECOME LIKE YOU

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
release to the prisoners …
Mourn with those who mourn…” (Isaiah, 61: 1-2)

Years after the birth, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, there is still no room in the inn to accommodate the millions of migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons that come ‘knocking’ at our borders, our great walls and our hardened hearts. We also witness the Herods of our times who kill innocent lives through justification of all sorts of violence within countries: bombing and killing of civilians, sexism and masochism, extra-judicial killings, denial of access to adequate child and maternal care, corruption, cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriages that have led to young girls suffering fistula and HIV/AIDS; the Pharisees of our times that ‘preach but do not walk the talk’: through justification of oppressive laws and regulations, violent approaches to dealing with challenges that face the different contexts of our world — the challenges of extremisms, fair trade, occupation of territories and also grabbing of land that belongs to the poor, religious and gender affiliations and ‘otherness’.

Today, we are reminded of the message of peace, healing, liberty, comfort and restoration that the child we await, Jesus, brings into our hearts and world. Through the prophesy of Isaiah of a Messiah that ‘proclaims God’s year of favour’ we are consoled and at the same time challenged. We are consoled because Jesus whom the world awaits anew brings a message of hope – that there is room in the inn, for in God’s house ‘there are many dwelling places’ (John, 14:2); that all will have life more abundantly (John 10:10); that all are welcome to feast at the table of the Lord — friends and enemies alike. Jesus’s message and mission is of love, especially love of the enemy (Matthew, 5:44).

Therefore, as we wait for the coming of Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us this Christmas 2017 with great hope and joyful hearts, let us reflect and feel challenged to follow in Jesus’ footsteps – the way of active nonviolence. Following in this way is a great challenge and calls for a different way of thinking, doing and being. However, we need not be afraid, for Jesus, God-with-us has shown and modeled peace through active nonviolence as witnessed through his life, mission and death and through his resurrection. After his resurrection, we witness Jesus who does not come back demanding revenge or seeking justice for being tortured, humiliated and killed for a crime he never committed. He kept true to himself and focused on his mission of preaching the good news to the oppressed, binding up the broken-hearted, proclaiming liberty to captives, releasing prisoners, and mourning with those who mourned (Isaiah, 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19).

Let Christmas 2017 and the 2018 New Year be a time to denounce all forms of violence (direct, structural and cultural) and also violent approaches in dealing with conflicts in our societies today. Let us also reflect on our ‘swaddling clothes’ as we wait to receive the baby Jesus in our arms that he might transform us so that we become like him.

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