Advent Inaugurates Our Reinstatement
When Jesus was born, he brought the church to creation with him. When Jesus ascended, he left the church with creation.
The arrival of Jesus began the reinstatement of God’s good people back into their proper vocation by showing them the true path to caring for and subduing creation – the path of humility, obedience to the Father, death to self and the hope of real resurrection.
Advent is like waiting for Superman, but in reality, our wait is over. He has come and gone but has put us back in charge, a reinstatement that the Trinity has long waited to inaugurate.
So what is our vocation during advent? What is our job?
Benevolence & Justice
Too often Christ’s church is known for benevolence instead of, or in place of justice. When we allow ourselves to be know primarily for benevolence, our goodness fades with the dawn and our justice ends up trickling rather than rolling down. Over emphasizing benevolence to the detriment or relegation of justice only serves to perpetuate violence and diminish generosity. But if we are honest, this penchant for imbalance is present in all of us. It’s easier to be good, than to be just.
Our Hope in Christ’s birth brings both benevolence and justice together into tension with each other. We are called to rely on this inseparable tension, because left to ourselves, we are prone to one without the other. Picking and choosing one or the other is not the Good News Isaiah and Jesus proclaimed and that which is meant to inhabit the dynamic life of the Church.
If we do good, but ignore justice, we cannot completely proclaim the hope of Christ’s birth.
Speaking Truth To Power
If my church only spoke Truth during Advent Sundays, the my church is not really a church. It feigns its identity and instead settles for a well attended Bible Study.
The Church at its core identity always speaks Truth to pain, (pastoral) power and oppression (prophetic). If our gathered communities don’t speak the Truth entrusted to them to embodied realities of loss, injustice and chaos, we are in danger of being just a really good Bible Study, nothing more.
The story of a deity becoming human is older than Jesus. The story of a deity dying and rising for his people is older than Jesus. The story of Advent is older than Jesus. What makes Jesus’s version so different?
“Vicit Agnus Noster, euam sequamur.”
“Our lamb has conquered, let us follow him.”
The Scandal of Advent
The scandal of Advent is twofold. Firstly, a deity being born as a human is not new to the religious narratives of the world. Secondly, Jesus was born without an identifiable earthly father. While scholars and writers have disagreed throughout the centuries, it is safe to say that Jesus’s community probably perceived of him as an illegitimate child. But in fact, many of Jesus’s ancestors were born of scandal and ill repute.
Jesus’s entry into history is done by coming inside of our universal mythic longings, but as C.S. Lewis wrote, the difference with Jesus is that he is our “true myth”. He entered the world via our long told stories, but did so in a way, that while it began with our primordial longings, it did not quite fit with how we tell our stories.
He broke our story-telling by upstaging the way we finish our final scenes. As the Divine Being, he chose to become a human being, a story many religious traditions have already told about their deities. The difference was that this God becoming a human would also be born a bastard – a bastard, because no one, not even the Jews, really knew who his Father was (double entendre intended here). The Jews had a rule that anyone born of an illegitimate union could not enter the Jewish Assembly to worship Yahweh for up to ten generations
No bastard is to enter the congregation of God, even to the tenth generation, nor any of his children. – Deuteronomy 23:2
But the magic of Jesus’s story is that no one could ever really know or worship his Father unless he was to be born a bastard. God chose that – it was God’s choice for Jesus to be born of scandal so that we would come to know the type of God who loves and chooses the most scandalous.
Good News for the Scandalous
The Good News of Jesus’s birth is primarily for the scandalous, for those that don’t belong, for the foils to our stories and the ones who lose, are demoralized and will never gain the favor our human courts and the limitations of our human hearts. This is why Advent is for the scandalous. This is why Jesus’s story of divine birth is so unique apart from the rest of history’s similar mythic patterns.
He was born of scandal to invite everyone into his family – even those deemed unlovely and scandalous.
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:12-13
He was born to reinstate us, his family, to our original role as subduers of creation. He came to put us back to work – the job of bringing creation into order is now in our hands again.
And while he was born to do all of these things and much more, he needed to ascend in bodily form to make sure that we would do it without turning to him to fix it when we screwed up. We aren’t waiting for him to return to do the work, he is waiting for us to get our part done so that he can return.
So what is our work? It is to embrace our own scandal and to invite the uninvited, to practice justice, not just benevolence and to get over waiting for Jesus to return and to start working towards his return.