Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that he was back spread through the countryside. He taught in their meeting places to everyone’s acclaim and pleasure. He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,
God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”
Luke 4:14-21 (The Message)
“If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.”
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
It’s freedom, said it’s freedom time now
It’s freedom, said it’s freedom time now
It’s freedom, I’ma be who I am
It’s freedom time, said it’s freedom time
Everybody knows that they’ve lied
Everybody knows that they’ve perpetrated inside
Everybody knows that they guilty, yes
Resting on their conscience eating their insides
Get free, be who you’re supposed to be
Freedom Time by Lauryn Hill
* * *
In these yet to be United States, freedom is a highly contentious subject. Despite the fact that thousands of people have perished as a result of COVID-19, some Americans refuse to wear a simple face covering all for the sake of their “freedom”. Concurrently, this summer the country experienced weeks of righteous outrage over the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people. Now in just 21 days, Christians around the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus, but which Christ will be celebrated and exalted?
Because of collective and personal grief, I am not as excited as normal about this season. It feels hard to celebrate, hope, and rejoice in the face of death. I, for one, am over a Jesus that points to the gods of bondage, disregard for neighbor, and greed.
The very ethos of Jesus is to set oppressed and captive people free, as is seen in Luke’s account of the gospel. It is this liberator of the poor, marginal, and wounded that we anticipate at Advent. Even more, it is with this mission that we are charged to engage both our neighbors and the world.
If Sean Feucht can make “Jesus Christ Superspreader” shirts when I have watched funerals over zoom, then surely we as people of faith can boldly proclaim the truth of our liberating Christ. I believe in the God who Baldwin spoke of, one who empowers me to become larger, freer, and more loving.This is the embodied Christ that I will celebrate in just a few weeks.
Maybe like me, you are tired. I pray we muster the little energy we have left to rid ourselves of things oppositional to our freedom this season. People. Places. Things. Thoughts. Ideas. For some of us this might mean joining a community organization, and for others, you may need to take that extra day off. Either way liberation is calling.
The lies are loud. Our Liberator who is the way, truth, and the life is coming.
Grief lingers. Take heart. Our Liberator who wept with his friends is coming.
Resources are scarce. Greed abounds. Our Liberator who turned water to wine is coming.
Sickness is all around. Wear a mask. Social distance. Stay at home when you can. Our Liberator who healed the sick is coming.
Hearts are broken. Our Liberator who was betrayed is coming.
Prisons are full. BIPOC folks, women, LGBTQIA+ siblings, and immigrants are constantly discriminated against. Our Liberator who stood with the outsider is coming.
Our Liberator is coming.
Our Liberator has come.
Brittany T. Paschall does freedom work as an educator, liberator, activist, minister, writer, leader and organizer aligning social justice and education. She is the founder of We Remember Nashville, a 2020 Gen2Gen Fellow with Encore, and a member of Freedom Time Collective (@freedomtimeco).Find her on Instagram and Twitter @btpaschall or her website btpaschall.com.