Sabrina Reyes-Peters

#AdventWord 2021: Strength

"Strength" is a common Advent theme, I think. Variants and stories of "strong" or "might" are all over the scriptures; however, folks love to wax poetically on the fact that Jesus, the Messiah, whom his disciples wanted to be a mighty warrior to liberate them from the empire, did not come to exercise that kind of strength; he came as a vulnerable human baby, and he did not wield any discernible monarchical authority, or strength. Jesus came to save SOULS, not to overthrow the colonizers. He came "humble, on a donkey", and never wore a crown save one of piercing thorns.

Except, there are parts of scripture that would allude otherwise. Revelation, or the apocalypse of John, is replete with visions of warrior king Jesus. And whom is he fighting? Empire: the little kingdoms of the beast and the anti-Christ.

Growing up, Advent was the only church season that my family participated in, in any concrete fashion; I think this is the way of most Evangelical churches, for some strange reason. Every week during Advent, before supper, we would read a devotion, and light an advent candle on the wreath made of plastic leaves, pinecones and berries. They were the usual devotions related to the Christmas story, and the Hebrew scriptures speaking of a Messiah's birth. Jesus came as a baby to save souls.

Except, what good is mere soul saving if you leave a family on the street, hungry, because their medical bills were too much, and they lost a job and a house? What good is mere soul saving to the indigenous children who were kidnapped by the government, placed in boarding schools, and abused to death in the name of the church? How does mere soul saving help the Latines who do back-breaking farm work that barely meets their needs? How does soul saving work when the rich are getting richer during the plague, and the poor grow poorer?

I can really relate to the disciples' enthusiasm for a messiah that would bring material revolution. After all, the prophets speak of a God who is on the side of the poor and oppressed; why wouldn't Jesus deliver them?

We are all tired of this continual apocalypse that the pandemic has issued at warp speed. Where's the warrior Jesus of John's Apocalypse?

O God of Mary, who strikes down the mighty from their thrones, and empties the pockets of the wealthy, grant strength to our weary bodies, as we seek to further your kingdom in an unjust world where the wicked prosper and do not grow tired. For the love of Jesus, amen.