The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
Isaiah 9:2-4 (English Standard Version)
If you like, you can call this a followup to my previous post, “Now That the Cat’s Out Of The Bag.” This is more of a question: How do we address violence at Advent? Advent, the time of waiting for the coming Christ, the Light of God to burst forth upon a very dark world.
The above text is read during the Advent/Christmas season. This is the chapter that also has, “For to us a child is born” (9:6). This text is the promise of the coming Messiah who will be a light that shines for people who’ve been in darkness. This test also promises that the Messiah will overthrow the oppressor of his people (which was Israel at the time of this writing).
Today we’re in a land of great darkness. Violence from school shootings, militias, police brutality, and the CIA’s use of torture/interrogation against post-9/11 detainees has plunged us into this great darkness. And that’s just here in this land; let’s not talk about in the rest of the world. We’re also oppressed by this violence: either by our lives being snuffed, our trust in our government(s), or even just the financial burden placed on taxpayers to over-arm police and fatten the military.
We must be the lights. As Jesus stated, we are the light of the world. Those of us in the Boardinghouse-hold of Faith must let the Christ shine forth. We must be willing to have the “speak truth to power” spirit that flowed in Jesus the Christ flow though us today. We must take on the prophetic mantle for justice and shine our lights on the darkness of violence.
We must also be the ones to overthrow the oppression of violence. We must break the yoke of the burden of high taxes to finance war profiteering, making millions of Americans work long hours and live like paupers. If we have to, vote out what we have from city hall to the White House. We must take to the streets like the antiwar protesters of the 1960s. We must stand up to power-like Jesus and the Old Testament prophets-and demand they stop; or we’ll stop them.
We must also break the staff on our shoulders. The image above was the 13 December protest in New York City against police brutality (you can see the crowds in Washington Square Park). We too must protest the militarization of our police and how it acts as a staff to prod and push We The People as if we’re sheep. We must realize that racist police brutality will NOT be tolerated. That police who practice this must be brought to trial and sentenced accordingly. If not, maybe we need to start at the ballot box and vote. Or protest with our wallets. Plus, police must be trained to engage the public regardless of color or class. We must have community dialogue-and be bold about it.
And finally, we must break the rod of the oppressor. Tell the truth about our culture of violence. It amazed me that nary a Black megachurch preacher with millions of followers said nary a criticism of what happened in Ferguson, Staten Island, or in Cleveland. If these preachers won’t, then we in the pew must. It’s high time to tell the truth how violence has pervaded every sector of American culture-even in the Church. How this violence has spawned its own offspring: misogyny, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, militarism, and other ills that threaten life today. We must be the people of love that Christ called us to be. We must learn to love, create, serve, make love, plant, build, open, engage, dialogue, and care for while we can.
We are waiting for the Christ light, instead of realizing that light is in us already. As we go through the Advent Season, instead of reading the cute stories about the “Sweet little Jesus boy,” we need to learn from the firebrand rabbi he grew up to be. Then we can be the lights shining in our dark world, and break the tools mentioned above.
That’s how we deal with violence at Advent. Peace.