Advent reflections from a former UCC/Global Ministries Ecumenical Accompanier
Justice and the Light
Advent and Christmas Reflections for 2011
I ask myself now
why I do not limit my love
to decorated trees
a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes?
Why have I had to love
the burnt olive trees of justice
the voices crying out
justice and the light.
–Adapted from poem by Juan Gonzales Rose by Loren McGrail
Advent is a time of not only waiting but of staying awake, preparing for journeys, living into proclamations, and singing songs of God’s great reversal. It is a time of saying Yes to birth and fleeing or screaming No to empire’s death grip. It is a time for learning how to see in the dark, for lighting candles, and bearing witness. It is a time for honoring the prophets and messengers who prepare the way, the women who recognize and celebrate new life and know how to bless it and sing about it.
It is a time of anxious anticipation and hope in a time of empire and occupation. It is a time not unlike our own when bureaucratic governments want our taxes to support their projects on the backs of the poor and occupied. It is a world desperate for change not unlike our own. And so we remember that God used an earthly emperor’s tax census as the occasion for the birth of the true king, our redeemer. We remember this and it renews our hope.
Like long ago, Palestine is occupied again and Bethlehem, a 4,000 year old city of 160,000 is again under siege; this time with soldiers on corners, towering walls, military fences, and checkpoints. The people of Bethlehem behold the tragic irony that the holy family itself would not be able to enter the city at this point without proper permits and identification. The hopes and fears of all the years are still met and unmet in Bethlehem.
I invite you to journey with me through Advent as I reflect back on my extraordinary time this past year in Palestine and how these experiences intersect with our lectionary readings to create new meaning in this season of much needed and prayed for peace, justice, hope, and love.
I have designed each Advent Reflection to include scripture, a reflection, a photograph or two, a prayer, and resources for more information or action. I will put up each week on my blog a reflection for the coming Sunday or you can email me and get a copy of the whole guide. The guide will be designed as bulletin inserts. Please contact me if you wish to receive a copy of the guide.
*Rev. Loren McGrail is a UCC minister who served with Global Missions as a short-term volunteer and the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel from February-May 2011. She was assigned to the Bethlehem team. Loren preaches, speaks, and teaches about her experiences in the region. She is a member of the Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy and a member of Wellington Ave. United Church of Christ.