The Christian season of Advent is a time of anticipating Jesus Christ’s birth at Christmas. Amidst the commotion of Christmas buying, decorating, and lights, Christians remember that the world waited a long time for God’s coming in Christ. The season is marked by longing and the lighting of candles in expectation of Christmas, Christ’s birth.
ICWJ’s reflection on Advent and worker justice is by Pastor Ron Adams, Madison Mennonite Church:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” So begins what Christians refer to as the Canticle of Mary (Gospel of Luke 1:46-55). It is a song sung by Mary in celebration of her soon to be born baby. It is also a prophetic word about God’s justice being established on earth as in heaven.
“God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” Mary sings of a time when business as usual will be disrupted. A time of reversal, when God will turn the world upside down. Finally and once and for all those who have been oppressed and exploited will know what it is to receive their due portion of justice.
As was true in Mary’s day, we inhabit a world in which the gap between rich and poor continues to grow. Workers don’t receive a fair wage, while corporate heads receive far more than they deserve. The sad thing is, many of us have come to accept this as just the way things are. Injustice is the price of business, we are told. It’s the free market at work. Capitalism requires that some people will be poor, that some people will be underpaid, that some people will be exploited. It’s the hard truth, we are told. Just be glad it’s not you.
Mary dares to imagine a better world. Mary dares to call business as usual into question. She dares to pull back the curtain, and to announce that the emperor has no clothes. Mary tells us that the world as it is needs to be turned upside down. And God is going to do just that. Like the Hebrew prophets of old, Mary proclaims that God’s justice is coming.
Mary sings of a better world. She prophesies that the better world is coming, and that her child, Jesus, is God’s instrument to bring it into being. Christians believe this to be true.
The season of Advent is a time of waiting. Like an expectant mother, the Church contemplates the meaning of the birth of Jesus. Jesus’ birth is about more than presents under the tree, mistletoe, and decking the halls, wonderful as they all may be. It is a sign, a prophetic act that reveals God’s intentions for our world. An act that will result in the hungry being filled with good things, the powerful being brought down, and the lowly lifted up.
Like Mary, let us dare to imagine that better world. Let us imagine a world in which everyone who works is free to enjoy the fruits of their labor. A world in which no one is in need, and everyone receives their fair share. A world in which workers are treated with the respect and care that is their due as human beings and children of God.
This Advent season let us imagine and expect that better world. And let’s accept our calling to do what we can to make that world a reality.