This year I have had the wonderful opportunity to start an inclusive Christian community on my campus. Most of us have experienced new beginnings of some form or another; whether it’s a new job, a new school, a new relationship, or a new phase of life. In all of these events, the newness can carry with it fear, excitement, anticipation–even confusion. These feelings which newness brings–these are the feelings that I think Advent is intended to foster in us each year. For me, some times Advent feels less like an experience of newness, and more like ritual procedure. We light a candle every week, we sing the same songs, and hear similar readings. We know the story–how can it feel new?
This Advent season I began to question, what exactly it is that we are anticipating. I found out that “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning arrival. Sine the first arrival already happened–we call this event the Incarnation (God taking on human flesh)–Advent is a time where we not only remember this arrival, but we anticipate the next; we excitedly await the realization of God’s new world order. But what does this new world order look like?
For the first week of Advent this year, one of the readings from the UMC lectionary was Jeremiah 33, which reads: “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David; and he will do what is just and right throughout the land.” (Jer. 33:15)
We are anticipating a new world order in which justice for all is the motivation of rulers, in which righteousness is sought by all so that no one harms another. In this new world order will follow Jesus’ command in Matthew 5 to not only love our neighbor, but to “love your enemy as well.” We will be people who care for the earth–being aware of how our lives impact all creation. We will be people who love the tax collectors and prostitutes–not despite their “sins”–but because they are loved by God and there is no greater justification. We will not only accept, but we will celebrate the LGBTQ+ community; we will be equal with our siblings of color; we will have no borders; and the Tree of Life, which stands in the center of this new city, will “provide healing to the ALL of the nations.” (Rev. 22:2)
This Advent season I have invited my new Christian community to not only anticipate–but to participate in creating God’s new world order NOW. They have wonderfully met this challenge and each week we have focused on how we can be involved in seeking the justice which the prophets spoke of. We have written Christmas cards to those in immigration detention centers by sending them to TODEC; we have started to collect compost at our dining hall; and this week we have challenged our campus to make a pledge to reduce our use of one-use plastics. I invite you to reflect this holiday season on how you can participate in building this long-anticipated world order which began to restore creation through the first Advent of Jesus, and which God will finish with the second.