In the midst of a pandemic, can these Advent texts speak to our grief, both collective and personal, in political ways? These scriptures reveal that to grieve is to bear witness to our tears through righteous anger. They interrogate how our lives are structured along inequitable lines in this present moment and counter a simple return to how things were.
When we read of God enthroned as the great king, perhaps we can imagine a system of governance where our political rivals are not beaten into submission, but are disarmed by love; where those who are different from us are respected, listened to, learned from; where brute force is neutralized by a refusal to retaliate and is resisted through active non-violence. Toward this end, God is indeed the great leader, the one who models “power under” for all of us.
We need to recognize that whether we like it or not, the global community is in this crisis together. Our survival depends on learning to share the abundance we have—our natural and financial resources, as well as scientific expertise and creativity—in the fight to combat climate change.
An intertextual reading of Genesis 12 and Psalm 121 demonstrates that, while our faithful relationship with God may be initiated by our willful act of leaving, our ongoing life journey can be sustained by our attention to nature’s ontological testimony of God’s unequal sovereignty. Just as the Hebrew pilgrims were given strength to live out their faith through ecological awareness and mindfulness, let us emulate this life of pilgrimage and boldly leave our anthropocentric lifestyles.
Our political theology is strengthened by trusting that the words of the Son of Man are a fleshly restatement of what is divinely just and good and holy and lovely. Because Christ has come and his presence is with us, God’s words are even more accessible to us.
Our only hope is that the God who will raise us, the God whose justice is glorified, will eventually make all things right. Our trust in our just God should be evident in our words and our works as we live out the proclamation of the gospel.
Psalm 1 presents the reader with two, mutually exclusive categories of human existence: righteousness and wickedness. However, experience tells us that to be human is far more complex. Rather than simply embracing the psalm’s presentation of life, we might enter a dialogue instead, one wherein we consider what it might mean to be formed by attending to others rather than reifying our existing in-groups.
The familiarity of the 23rd Psalm can blind us to the striking political dimensions of its message: YHWH is the shepherd of the king, protecting him from enemies and granting his kingdom prosperity. Close reflection upon this psalm may also suggest some significant applications within the contemporary world.