Waiting for liberation

Advent’s promise: a deliverance still to come

Dec 5, 2016 by

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Jesus was born into a community of second-class citizens waiting for a liberator. Those who experienced the first Advent endured the weight of oppression — the Roman Empire’s occupation of Judea.

Those of us who live in relatively affluent and peaceful North American settings can find it difficult to enter into the mindset of the first-century Jewish people. We rely on church services, seasonal songs and devotional readings to help us appreciate the desire for deliverance.

Yet all is not equally pleasant for everyone in North America. Some of us experience oppression in various forms. Many others are growing more aware of this reality. Since the U.S. presidential election, the white nationalist movement (segments of which eerily evoke Nazi ideals) has gained boldness and attention, heightening already present ill will toward marginalized groups.

Undocumented immigrants fear legal crackdowns that may tear their families apart. Muslims are vilified for the crimes of a few. The nonviolent protestors of the proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline face police brutality that is life-threatening.

Advent breaks into a troubled world with a shocking and scandalous call to “rejoice!” during the darkest times. This not a socially acceptable way to comfort suffering people. But the gospel says redemption is coming.

This redemption in Jesus Christ is extended to everyone — the victim of oppression and the one complicit in it. Jesus transcends the culture war and calls us to humble ourselves (Phil. 2:5-8), as he did by becoming human.

Yet the promised deliverance was not accomplished in the Incarnation, but only begun. Among the Christmas season’s 12 days is one committed to the memory of the baby boys Herod had killed in his opposition to Jesus.

In the person of Jesus, God is not far off. Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses and brokenness (Heb. 4:15). Even as we celebrate God’s coming to us, we continue to await the complete fulfillment of his kingdom.

Besides external forces of oppression that some of us experience, we all struggle in various ways with the oppression that comes from living with our collective sinfulness. To confront this, we do not need to enter into the mindset of first-century Jews in the Roman Empire.

We await liberation from our desire for self-exaltation and supremacy. The example of Jesus and the guidance of God’s Spirit call us toward this humility and freedom, though our corrupt flesh opposes such reform. Our Advent celebrations reflect this struggle as we groan inwardly, waiting for our redemption (Rom. 8:18-25).

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