When we set up our Christmas tree this past weekend, Andy chose my Spotify "Protest Songs" playlist as our sound track.
This seemed appropriate, as the first-ever Advent song, Mary's Magnificat, is a protest song, too.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty."
When Jesus first spoke in the synagogue, he read a passage that echoes Mary's song:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free." Luke 4:18
It's as if Mary was the original Social Justice Warrior, and Jesus learned his lessons well.
I've thought before about social justice and protest in terms of tearing down systems of oppression IN ORDER TO set captives free, to bind up the broken-hearted, to provide comfort to the suffering, to bring beauty for ashes, and to offer joy in place of mourning. (Isaiah 61:1-3)
But I've been thinking lately about how Jesus went about it, and it seems like he just walked right into the existing system, and started doing his thing.
Where people were hungry, he fed them.
Where people were sick, he healed them.
Where people were outcast, he welcomed them.
He didn't wait for the system to fall. He just got busy.
Sure, he said stuff to the Pharisees, like:
"Woe to you, who create heavy burdens, and lay them on people's shoulders, when you aren't even willing to lift a finger." (Matthew 23:4)
"Woe to you, who shut the doors of heaven in other people's faces!" (Matthew 23:14)
"Woe to you, blind guides!" (Matthew 23:16)
"Woe to you, who know every inch of the law but forget all about justice and mercy!" (Matthew 23:23)
He made some whips and flipped some tables, for sure.
But mostly he spent his time hanging out with "prostitutes and sinners", and getting a reputation as a glutton and a wine-bibber (Luke 7:34). Which sounds exactly like the kind of person I most like to hang out with, to be honest.
Maybe the best way to bust the system is just to have a party and invite everybody over. That seems to be mostly what Jesus did.
Honestly, I think this is what people are looking for today: a place of acceptance and unconditional love. Food, comfort, healing.
It's as simple as that.
We don't have more money than the powers that be. We can't bomb, buy, or legislate "them" into submission.
But by golly, we can LOVE.
And the protest-power of LOVE is needed today more than ever before, because we have been living in a system full of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, known and experienced primarily by its victims, who are desperate for a place to call home.
We can be that home, we can be that place of healing.
This is how the Kingdom comes, on earth as it is in heaven: when we love like Jesus loved.
And so, this Advent season, I pray with Mother Mary:
Scatter the proud,
Cast down the mighty,
Exalt the humble,
Fill the hungry with good things,
Send the rich away empty.
And teach us to build a home for the suffering,
where Love is always enough for us all,
and the bread and the wine is always waiting.
"I am Willing" by Holly Near
I am open and I am willing
To be hopeless would seem so strange
It dishonors those who go before us
So lift me up to the light of change
There is hurting in my family
There is sorrow in my town
There is panic in the nation
There is wailing the whole world round
May the children see more clearly
May the elders be more wise
May the winds of change caress us
Even though it burns our eyes
Give me a mighty oak to hold my confusion
Give me a desert to hold my fears
Give me a sunset to hold my wonder
Give me an ocean to hold my tears