What if Zephaniah’s addressees had a right to mourn, lament, and rage against the wrath of Yhwh? Afterall, Yhwh’s favor is fickle in Zephaniah, entirely contingent on a particular obedience and only coming after the divine wrath is spent.
In that trust in the divine, one can unashamedly open up their positions and postures because God receives people as they are and as they wish to come. God doesn’t blame and shame any names; rather God calms those who come unto him with the heavy labor of shame.
This Advent, we are in desperate need of both prophetic voices and prophetic imaginations. Voices to put our politicians in their place and imaginations to help us recognize the shape of God’s hesed in the midst of personal and global trauma.
The Magnificat is a song that disrupts both gender and hierarchical spaces. It is a song of anticipation and a song of realization. And as we meditate on this song during advent, we meditate on the nature of advent that is both a time of anticipation and realization. Advent is an ambiguous space that invites us to anticipate and realize the erasure of differences here and now.
The Gospel of Mark’s beguiling beginning bids us to consider the dangers of beginnings. John the Baptist’s heralding of Jesus’s coming was not the finality of salvation, but merely a herald to its coming. In this light should we consider our works of bringing God’s salvation and liberation to the world. The work of justice and liberation is long and hard, and many of us will be called to herald it, to lay the groundwork for its eventual manifestation.
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.
Joseph knows that this situation with Mary is not about legalities, or honor or shame or what other people may think or say; it is about God bringing Christ to the world. All that matters is God’s call. Joseph honors Mary, and their marriage, this family, as the opportunity God has created to bring hope, salvation to all the world.
Advent is the season between the comings, the space of absence in which we await the Divine visitation. Might it also be a space of resistance, wherein we reimagine our identities and, in so doing, perhaps even become the kind of presence in the world we so desire?