The revolution of Advent

For then will I remove from your midst
the proud braggarts,
And you shall no longer exalt yourself
on my holy mountain.
But I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
Who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord:
the remnant of Israel.
Zephaniah 3: 11-13

 Beware the Advent lectionary. It is revolutionary. The proud are taken down and the poor are raised up.

It’s not just Isaiah, where the lion will dwell with the lamb and the poor will eat at the table of the Lord.

It’s not just Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1: 46-55, where the poor are filled and the rich are sent away empty.

It’s not just today’s reading from Zephaniah that castigates the powerful and arrogant.

It’s the breaking in of hope in a world that wants us to despair, give up, and give in to the powers that be.

It’s the breaking in of light in a world where darkness seems overwhelming.

It’s the exaltation of the poor, recognizing the wisdom and the worth of the remnant, “the poor and meek people,” over the conceited and arrogant.

It’s the revolution of a God come to announce the Reign of God and the coming of a year of Jubilee (Isaiah 61 and Luke 4: 16-21).

It’s a God who become poor, taking their side against the sin and injustice of the world.

It’s a God of justice and compassion, who comes among us as a poor child in a land suffering imperial occupation – and calls us to solidarity with the poor.

It’s Jesus, a God who loves to the end – dying and rising, offering hte world life and hope.

In The Original Revolution,  Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder wrote:

 The priority agenda for Jesus, and for many of us, is not mortality or anxiety, but unrighteousness, injustice. The need is not for consolation or acceptance but for a new order in which [humans] may live together in love. In his time, therefore, as in ours, the question of revolution,  the judgment of God upon the present order and the imminent promise of another one,  is the language in which the gospel must speak. What most people mean by “revolution,” the answer they want is not the gospel; but the gospel, if it be authentic, must so speak as to answer the question of revolution.  This Jesus did.

 ***

The quotation from John Howard Yoder’s The original Revolution can be found in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, originally published by the Bruderhof, now by Orbis Books.

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