Every Christian liturgist around the world is turning their attention toward Advent. This is the time of year Christians set aside to celebrate the expectation of the arrival of the Christ child. But before we hastily speed ahead into celebration I want to pause momentarily to ask if we are really living into the principles we celebrate? Rather than give vain oblations and spiritual platitudes it seems wise to me to give space for introspection. If the Christ child is worthy of celebrating, how have we embodied the principles of the Christ child since last advent?
For many scholars Jesus represents the perfect exemplar of the Christ mind. “Christ” in this sense is the technical term that defines Absolute Spiritual Truth. In this case wherever the Christ mind is healing follows – physical healing, or moral healing, or even intellectual healing – whatever the need, the Christ is the answer (Fox 1966). The birth of Jesus represents the arrival of healing in the world. This is not a conversation about (nor does it seek to diminish the conversation of) the hypostatic union of Jesus nor about Divinity. This conversation centers an examination of Jesus on the power of His life work and message. It challenges us to understand the Bible as a whole and to discover the thread of unified teachings running through its different texts (Holmes 2006). This way of discussing the Christ changes our way of engaging advent.
When we engage the birth of Jesus as the manifestation of the Christ mind, we are forced to investigate whether or not we are living into this idea of healing the world. Have we from last advent lived into the prophetic call of Christ to bring wholeness to the brokenness manifested in humanity and the systems created by humanity that foster brokenness? Have we like Jesus fought to dismantle militarism, terrorism, and poverty? Have we worked toward a justice narrative in all our spheres of influence and is there evidence of counter-cultural proactive engagement in speaking on behalf of those who have no voice? The real vocation of the Christ mind is to let suffering speak, let victims be visible, and let social misery be put on the agenda of those in power (Cornel West 2014).
Worship is the heart and pulse of the Christian church. In worship, we celebrate together God’s gracious gifts of creation and salvation and are strengthened to live in response. Worship always involves actions not merely words (Wilkey 2014). As we plan our celebrations and worship opportunities this Advent I invite us to see if we are authentic in our worship. Do our actions line up with the messages of the season? Jesus lived life as a colonized person and as a minoritized person in a community that was under siege by an occupying army so he understood how poverty is created by an empire. Jesus understood racial profile, mass incarceration, state sponsored torture and the list goes on. He understood them not ideologically, but experientially and the experiences he had when he encountered these things healed them. All of them. In what ways are our celebrations healing our world?
The Birth of Jesus was the moment when Christians recognized that the Holy God had now emerged in human history in a self-conscious way. In the Birth of Jesus, Christians celebrated the recognition that the God now was revealed to be present. This birth was a sign that the infinite could be known in the finite, that the eternal could be met in that which is transitory (Spong 1998). The first order of business of Jesus was to blur the lines of otherness, to follow Jesus in the Christ mind is to continue in that path. How is you spiritual community living out the radical welcome and hospitality that the Advent season means?
Peace Is Possible,
Rt. Rev. Edward Donalson III, DMin | Director of Liturgy and Worship | Assistant Clinical Professor
SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY AND MINISTRY | SEATTLE UNIVERSITY
Cornel West, Christa Buschendorf. 2014. Black Prophetic Fire. Boston : Beacon Press.
Fox, Emmet. 1966. The Sermon on the Mount. New York: HarperOne.
Holmes, Ernest. 2006. The Hidden Power of The Bible. New York: Penguin Group.
Spong, John Shelby. 1998. Why Christianity Must Change or Die. New York: Harper Collins.
Wilkey, Glaucia Vasconcelos, ed. 2014. Worship and Culture: Forgien Country or Homeland? Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.