People and organizations seem to be particularly generous this time of year. Donations of coats, toys, and food roll in intended to spread holiday cheer. People seem to think that the plight of the poor is the lack of resources when the reality of the matter is that joy and contentment have little to do with material possessions or the lack thereof. While most recipients are grateful for the seasonal relief, the rest of the year they are left to make ends meet on much less. Once the new year rolls around, the merriment of the season is replaced with the reality that little is changed by a few gifts or a free turkey. No one wants to rely on handouts. What people really need are jobs that pay decent wages, affordable childcare, and the opportunity to give their families a happy, healthy life. More than a few trifles that will be forgotten after a few days, what is truly needed is change in our economic, educational, and legal systems that remove barriers to living flourishing lives.
As I read through the lectionary passages for Advent this year, I am struck by the relevancy of the words for people today. Jeremiah said, “I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 33:15). Our “land,” the neighborhoods in which we live and work, is crying out for righteousness. Our communities are begging for justice. From the African-American lives lost at the hands of law enforcement to the terrorist acts around the world, violence has left an indelible mark on our cities without recourse. Our children lack quality education, and families are trapped in cycles of poverty and dependency. Moreover, our refugee and immigrant neighbors are under unreasonable scrutiny, and left vulnerable to hateful actions rooted in fear and ignorance.
Yet, the hope of Advent lies in the one who will deal with the oppressors, and removes the shame of the powerless (Zephaniah 3:19). We anticipate the day when mothers no longer worry over the safety of their children, and people are judged by their actions rather than the color of their skin. As we reflect on the birth our Savior, we are reminded of promises fulfilled, and of those yet to be. We wait for the one who delivered the faithful in the past, who will do so in the future, as well. We celebrate the coming of our King who will strengthen his people and bring shalom that our world so desperately needs, where there is nothing missing and nothing broken (Micah 5:4-5). Our hope at Christmas time, and the whole year through, is in our Lord Jesus.
Marie Moy completed the Master of Arts in Theology and Social Justice at Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College in May 2015. She serves in the city of Buffalo through Jericho Road Community Health Center and Renovation Church. Marie is passionate about Christian community development, and works with like-minded individuals and organizations to holistically restore communities.