Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent yesterday and I’m sitting in an Episcopal church in Carmel, Indiana. 98% White. Scripted prayers (not bad, but scripted nonetheless) and out of this formal setting, the first reading:
“They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. For I the Lord love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense…”
We sit there, respectfully following along in our bulletins.
And I ask myself, “Who are they?”
The image in my mind as the passage is read is my POC brothers and sisters who lament and know what systemic oppression looks and feels like. Who keep on lamenting, trusting, and hoping in community because that’s the only thing that brings dignity in daily life.
Who clings to the faith of their ancestors, who survived slavery and lynching, and still believed in Jesus, in their desperation. Who believed that they were the crucified ones. That maybe if Christ could say, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” they could have the courage to forgive those behind their daily experience of multiple oppressions. That they could find their voice even in the midst of white supremacy.
We in white culture like to sanitize the Christmas story. We like to make sure Jesus’ skin tone was white and that all the animals were behaving in the stable and that kids look cute in their choir concert. Truth is, Mary and Joseph were poor and they had a dangerous journey to Bethlehem. Mary had to have her baby outside (no health insurance). Jesus was a refugee who barely escaped genocide. (Good thing Joseph believed the angels in a dream!)
We in white culture have a hard time sitting with the Christmas story as one of multiple oppressions. Then we have to take seriously the fact that we oppress, directly or through silence.
I believe that people of color will repair the ruined cities. They have the persistence that I don’t yet have. They know that lament and joy are always intertwined. Healing must be grassroots work and be collaborative. I believe that people of color are finding ways to practice healing justice, to find ways to heal the devastations of many generations, while still taking care of themselves and their community.
A big part of my job is to get out of the way. To amplify the voices of color and learn from them. To take an honest look at my life and see ways that I oppress. (A big shout out goes out to Faith Matters Network and Mystic Soul Project for the work that you are doing. Thank you for allowing me to see faith from a different vantage point.)
I also wanted to write about ways I’m smiling and laughing this Advent. I’m waiting for my smile to return and I’m doing small things to recharge this month, rather than scurry around like crazy. Yesterday, I made a cake, along with the help of my roommate. If you have food allergies, you know how hard it is for cake not to taste like cardboard. Well, this 6 layer-cake with layers of an Oreo cookie crust, chocolate cake, and chocolate mousse did not disappoint! It’s also gluten and nut-free, so if you want the recipes let me know!