Radvent Day 19, Evening – Open Blind Eyes

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove Jesus out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Luke 4:28-30 (NIV)

“If Christ himself walked through these doors and said what he said thousands of years ago ― that we should love our neighbor and our enemy, that we should welcome the stranger, fight for the least of us, that it is easier … for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into a kingdom of heaven ― he would be maligned as a radical and rejected from these doors.”
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Go for broke for the ones that are broken
Please don’t make me no hashtag or slogan
May your streets be paved with gold
Hope my whole hood make it home
“Make it Home” by Tobe Nwigwe

The holidays are a perennial invitation to revisit old relationships. Some days we will smile and laugh with people who are a balm in a difficult year. Other times, we will be face-to-digital-face with people who make our blood boil. Maybe you’re starting to get anxious and jittery, going back and forth about how much to say, and what fights to fight.  

I can’t tell you how to navigate your family. But I can offer you the story of the first time Jesus went home after getting radicalized with a wildly progressive vision for his community. 

When Jesus turns 30, he spends over a month living and fasting under the mideastern sun. Out in the sand and rocks Jesus meets the devil, who dares him with riches, power and fame. 

But Jesus isn’t interested in being rich, powerful, or famous. 

Instead, he spends a few weeks with his anarchist cousin, John, who currently runs a commune in the wilderness. Upon being baptised by John, Jesus decides to start his own people-powered revolution: The Kingdom of God. People preaching good news on the streets of Israel and beyond.

It’s a big new direction for his life and like so many of us, he goes home excited to tell his family. I imagine Mary was excited for him. Mary had her own radical vision of tearing down the rulers and oppressors and lifting up the poor and healing the sick. 

The next Sabbath, Jesus is asked to be the guest preacher, and this is when it all goes wrong. I imagine the synagogue was filled with his parents’ friends, the people who had changed his diaper, his old school teachers, the shop keepers…the people Jesus grew up with.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read… (Lk. 4:16 NIV)

At first the town just stares at him. Then someone shouts, “Isn’t this Joseph the Carpenter’s Son?”

Some people may like what they’re hearing. But they want to know if he is planning on bringing all this great stuff to their small town in Nazareth. Is Jesus gonna put Nazareth First?

Jesus explains that the Kingdom of God is a movement for everyone; he is inviting non-Jewish people, immigrants, women, children, people from other countries… This is when you see the demons of nativism, bigotry, and xenophobia rise up in the town. Because Jesus’s childhood friends try to straight up murder him (Lk. 4:28-30). 

They run him off the ledge of a cliff.

We don’t know how Jesus and Mary felt as they stared into the hatred on the faces of the people from the faith community. But I know how I felt when I had to leave my home church. I know I sobbed in the back pew.

I was never coming back and it tore my soul in half. 

After his neighbors tried to kill him, Jesus packs up, walks to a nearby town, and starts to do the work. 

For those who anticipate pain this Christmas, if your family shits on the revolution or re-traumatizes you…it’s okay to create some distance.

Save your energy for the work you are called to in this world. 

Nathan Roberts is the co-founder of Daylight Center and School in Kenya, a Lutheran Director of Community Engagement in Minneapolis, MN. He is a founding editor of The Salt Collective magazine and author of two books. Follow him @nathaniroberts and nathaniroberts.com.

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