“The kingdom of God is justice and peace
And joy in the Holy Spirit
Come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.”
This chant has floated into my memory as I have been watching the historical final results of the 2020 presidential election on this Friday morning.
We have sung this Taizé chant at All Saints many, many times in diverse liturgies, but I think its lyrics encapsulate something about Advent, the season we begin celebrating this Sunday. The signs of the in-breaking of the Kingdom or Reign of God in our world include the presence of justice and peace.
For the past five years, we have been giving ourselves the gift of a seven-week Advent, rather than only four weeks. Surely, given the pain, heartbreak, injustice, and violence of this past year, we need a breather. We need joy. We need to have a chance to sing at full voice, “Rejoice, rejoice!” We need this season as a time to breathe and to call upon the Holy Spirit to continue to show us the way forward.
Why do we extend the season of Advent to seven weeks? Because much of American popular culture is ready to skip right over Advent and jump into singing “Joy to the World.” The Hallmark Channel started playing Christmas movies on October 30th!
What is Advent? Why do we need it? Consider this blog entry entitled, “Advent: Love Coming to Fullness” (2016) by Franciscan Friar and spiritual author Richard Rohr:
“Advent”—from the Latin for “a coming, an approach, or an arrival”—is upon us. This season is more than a sentimental, reminiscent waiting for a new Baby Jesus. The need for adult Christianity and Jesus’ actual message is so urgent that we cannot allow the great feast of Christmas, and its preparation in Advent, to be watered down in any way. The suffering, injustice, and devastation on this planet are too great to settle for an infantile Gospel or Jesus. Jesus taught that the “reign of God” or the “kingdom of God” asks a great deal of us personally—surrender, simplicity, solidarity with suffering.
Published this week, our parish profile explains who we are to prospective rector candidates. It speaks of our parish as having a strong commitment to social justice. We are in “solidarity with suffering.” Evidence of that commitment is noted throughout that profile. We are already doing so much! Our wildly successful Greenlining Campaign, our ongoing support of Ravenswood Community Services, our annual Africa Bake Sale, our recent fundraising for Father Bayron’s ministry in Mexico, our anti-racist program, and so many other activities that we do as individuals and as a community help to spread justice and peace in many forms.
Given that evidence, no one would blame us for taking some time for reflection. All activists need time to rest so that they have the energy to continue their good work. Advent now offers that time.
Hispanic theologian Ada Maria Isasi-DÍaz calls the Kingdom of God by a term that truly reflects what we as a community are helping to bring about – the “Kin-dom of God.” As we make our way through the coming seven weeks to Christmas Eve when we finally can sing “Joy to the World,” may all our Kin come to know justice and peace. And may we awake on Christmas morning refreshed and ready to share our joy in the Holy Spirit.
Eileen D. Crowley, Worship Committee