Advent And The Empire Of This World

Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, a time of remembrance and preparation for the coming of Jesus into the world. Especially for those of us who do not attend liturgical worship services, it is easy to forget about this special period of hope and expectancy in the midst of darkness. Advent is mostly obscured by the Holiday Season that is so vigorously promoted by the profit-driven society in which we reside. Our practice of remembering the coming of Jesus groans under the weight of the prosperity cult that has emerged as our unifying national religion.

In the face of this consumerist onslaught, Advent stands as a mark of radical resistance to the Empire of this world. Together, we remember how God has entered into our world in the person of Jesus Christ, and we confess that it is only in his Empire (his Kingdom) that we may find true peace and fulfillment.

It is easy to forget how radical this season is meant to be. Advent is not about egg nog, Christmas carols and sleigh rides – it is an act of shared recognition that the true Lord and Love of our lives has entered into the world and has unmasked the powers that hold us in bondage. Joy to the world, the Savior reigns! He is here to unmask and put an end to the evil of sex trafficking, political corruption, environmental devastation and the dehumanizing attitudes that have infected every human heart. The Empire of this world is become the Empire of our Lord, and of his Messiah!

His coming is like a refiner’s fire, which purifies and strips down everything that stands in the way of the abundant life that the Spirit is calling us into. Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when Jesus himself appears in our midst? As we endure this world’s “Holiday Season,” God calls us away from our selfish consumption and comforting rituals. Instead, we are invited to become agents of Christ’s work of unmasking the powers and bringing healing to our broken society.

The coming weeks are a time for revolutionary boldness. Now is the time to remember that the true Light that enlightens everyone is coming into the world. This is a moment to radically reorient our lives and turn towards the the upside-down Kingdom. We are being offered an opportunity to (re)affirm our commitment to the loving Empire of Jesus, and to renounce the death-dealing Empire that so often seems unassailable.

For we know that Jesus has already overcome the world. What would it look like for us to participate in his victory? How might we change our whole orientation, seeing clearly the way that God is re-making the whole of creation? Are we ready to turn away from the darkness and confusion of this world and turn towards the light that we find in the face of Jesus? Are we prepared to tear away the veil of confusion and embrace the radical implications of the message that simmers just under the surface of the Holiday Season?