On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
“I’ma wade, I’ma wave through the waters
Tell the tide, “Don’t move”
I’ma riot, I’ma riot through your borders
Call me bulletproof
Lord, forgive me, I’ve been runnin’
Runnin’ blind in truth
I’ma wade, I’ma wave through your shallow love
Tell the deep I’m new
I’m telling these tears, “Go and fall away, fall away,” oh
May the last one burn into flames”
“Freedom,” By Beyonce ft. Kendrick Lamar
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., From “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
Brief are the moments of exhale for those who stride toward freedom.
The path is never linear, as each mark of progress is met with disproportionate retaliation from those who must cede power for justice and freedom to find full realization.
After a season of waiting, we now breathe deeply the hope and assurance of the Word made flesh. The light and life of God-with-us is the foundational paradigm for Christ-following radicals. Knowing that our Creator not only professes solidarity with us but has entered into the entirety of our experience to restore the wholeness and holiness of our humanity is what motivates us to share the wonders of our God in word and practice.
Yet even as we join hands in the spirit of celebration with the angels and shepherds and Magi, we also set ourselves resolutely to the work of keeping the faith in the face of cruelty, dispatched to reclaim territory lost by the powerful. Such is the eternal rhythm of the spiritual realms, earthly kingdoms, and the planes on which they intersect.
When the Christ-child was born, Herod responded with a massacre of the innocents. When Jesus sought focus in the desert during the time between his baptism and the start of his ministry, Satan tempted him with appeals to hedonism, materialism and egoism. And when the resurrected Christ commissioned the Church, it was met with violent persecution.
So it’s disappointing but not surprising that following the Civil War, the terrorism of lynching and Jim Crow smothered Reconstruction. Or that the Civil Rights movement saw assassinations and the War on Drugs as new manifestations of old powers. Or that those who find a diversifying society threatening will pull whatever levers they can to hold onto what once was.
Few notions are more radical today than to eschew power and align with the marginalized in whom Jesus identifies. To accept the call to follow Christ requires both the patient hope and the urgent movement that the Advent season instills in us. We can’t wait forever. Shine light in response to the life we celebrate.
Christian Dashiell has served in urban communities and on college campuses. These days he writes a little, parents a lot, and works to support foster and adoptive families in his community. You can find more of his writing here.