As I write, the United States is gripped by protests as people call for justice in the face of black fatalities involving police. Others call for justice in light of the unruly element that committed looting and other crimes during those same protests.
Closer to home, in Ontario, we have heard of the recent death of a mother and her two children and there is some suggestion that domestic violence is to blame.
The posture of the news media is to report it, to be objective, to hope that calm heads prevail. The sad truth is, these stories will likely unfold again, a hundred times over, with different people, in different places. “That’s just the way the world works.”
At the same time, I’m preparing for worship in this Advent season – ‘peace,’ ‘hope,’ ‘joy’ – and somehow my mind defaults to this picture of the privileged, enjoying ‘peace’ and ‘hope’ in warm, nicely decorated church sanctuaries.
But that’s not what Advent is. Advent is not a religious countdown towards Christmas. Advent is not four weeks of ‘mini-Christmas.’ Advent is not a cloistered huddle disconnected from the real world.
Advent is the Church’s way of saying ‘this is not how it should be.’
Racial inequality, domestic violence, abusive authority – this is not how it should be.
Advent is the Church’s way of lifting the veil of the status quo and saying ‘this way of life, struggling to make your own way, regardless of the cost’ is insufficient.
Advent is the Church’s way of saying ‘there is a Kingdom coming, one of righteousness and justice, where fairness and equity are everywhere:’
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7 NIV).
This isn’t just a nice verse to have printed inside Christmas cards. This is God’s promise, fulfilled in Jesus. His rule is ever extending and there will be no end to the peace inherent in His reign. His Kingdom will be characterized by justice and righteousness forever.
And just as surely as He came once, as a baby in Bethlehem, He will come again, to rule with fairness and equality.
Advent is the Church’s way of saying ‘this will happen – Jesus will come again – and His coming again means endless peace and incorruptible justice.’
And not only that, Advent is also the Church’s way of saying ‘we don’t need to wait.’ In a very real sense, the Kingdom is here! We can live our lives in light of the Kingdom right now, reflecting with our very being the values of the Kingdom. ‘That is how it should be!’ Justice! Righteousness! The weak made strong in the Saviour’s love!
As we live Advent lives, are we as believers heralding the Kingdom? Do we show the world by our lives of justice and selflessness that this is the better way of living? Do we go to our King as the source of our hope, our peace, our joy?
As we look outwards, can we see the world and recognize ‘this is not how it should be?’ Let us with our lives proclaim ‘the ideal is coming’ and live in light of it and let us offer true hope and true peace to those struggling in this world.
Graham Gladstone is a worship leader and consultant currently serving Lincoln Road Chapel in Waterloo, Ontario. An M.Div. graduate, he is passionate about corporate worship shaped by careful biblical reflection and heartfelt Spirit-led prayer. Connect with Graham at jbdomusic.com or @gwgladstone.
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Graham Gladstone is a worship leader and pastor currently serving at Langford Community Church in Brantford, Ontario. An M.Div. graduate, he is passionate about corporate worship shaped by careful biblical reflection and heartfelt Spirit-led prayer. Connect with Graham at gwgladstone.ca or @gwgladstone.