December 7th-December 13
Preparing a new way
A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
Of all the characters in the Bible, John the Baptist is the one you would most likely run from if you saw him on the street. The biblical stories of him tell of a crazy man, wandering the wilderness dressed in camel hair and eating locusts. But more than looking and acting a little crazy, John the Baptist talked crazy. Like so many of the prophets before him, he claimed that things were going to get better. He called out to a people who lived in poverty under the thumb of a repressive regime and told him that some day everyone will be equal. Someday justice will be served.
I have heard that when people initially went to register African American people during the civil rights movement, many of them refused. They believed that white men were going to do whatever they wanted. They did not believe that they would ever truly be granted power in the political system. If you had told them that some day there would be an African American president, they would have scoffed at you.
They thought that John the Baptist was crazy.
Sometimes I do too.
To call out for equality, to work for justice, to try every day to answer to a different bottom line than the systems of oppression and violence that keep so many people down—this is no easy work. There is no easy road to freedom. But if there is any clear, dominant message of the Bible, it is that we must spend our lives working for justice and equality.
John the Baptist is so named in part because he is the person who baptized Jesus. It was a crazy man who thrust Jesus into his ministry, and the message of that same crazy is as true today as it was two thousand years ago. This world is not the world of God’s dream. The way we live is not the way God imagined we would at our creation. All of us need to turn back. We need to change the way we live individually. We need to change the way we live as a society.
While this call, like the call to keep awake, can be overwhelming, that is no excuse for inaction. Like any road, the road to freedom begins with one step. Our ancestors would never believe how far their steps have taken us. We may not see the dream of God in its fullness, but we owe it to ourselves, to each other, and to the generations that come after us, to take the next step.
God, prepare in us your new way. Make the places in our heart where love lives, a little bigger. And give us courage to accept and tend what you plant there.
Prayer for lighting the second advent candle this week:
May this light guide us as we take the next step to prepare for the dream of God.
Some ideas for preparing for a new way in your own life
- Prepare yourself for the day. If you do not do so already, take a few minutes each morning to prepare yourself for the day. One way is to sit in silence, and take a few deep breaths. Remember that God says to you, “You are my beloved.” Rest in that reality for a few minutes before you do anything.
- Write down your dreams. The more you pay attention to your dreams the more they will speak to you. How might the Spirit be stirring in your dreams to prepare a new way in you?
- Reach out to those who are preparing for a long journey. Thousands of people forced from their homes for lack of economic opportunity are preparing to cross the border this week. Many are separated from their familes. From October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008, 183 people died while crossing the border in Arizona.
The organization, No More Deaths, seeks to end death and suffering on the U.S./Mexico border through civil initiative. Their action and humanitarian aid is based on the conviction that people of conscience must work openly and in community to uphold fundamental human rights. The work of No More Deaths embraces the Faith-Based Principles for Immigration Reform and focuses on the following themes:
• Direct aid that extends the right to provide humanitarian assistance
• Witnessing and responding
• Consciousness raising
• Global movement building
• Encouraging humane immigration policy.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson has created an interactive, holiday resource for families to learn about the border and then donate money to No More Deaths. Parts of the project have been reprinted below with their permission, including part of the introduction and the questions for this week.
The questions are designed to help us understand a complex situation that is playing out on our southern border with Mexico. Every day and night, hundreds of people embark on a journey to enter the United States in the hopes of finding better jobs, providing children with better educations, sleeping in safer homes, building more promising futures.
Politics, trade policies, enforcement strategies and national security all play a key part in this story of migration, but we want to focus on the moral and spiritual aspects. How do we welcome the strangers in our land? How do we treat others as we wish to be treated? How do we make sure that justice and compassion cross all borders?
We hope this activity will spark interesting conversations and lead us to consider things that we may not have thought about before. We also hope this activity will help generate some funds that will go to support our ministry of No More Deaths, whose volunteers are working year-round to provide humanitarian aid with the ultimate goal of ending the death and suffering in our backyard.
This is only a suggested donation - be as generous as you feel comfortable.
When migrants are repatriated back to Mexico, it's
common that all their money has been taken except
for a little bit of change, which is all they have to
survive on. How much change do you have in your
pocket or purse right now?
(Add actual amount) =
Since people without documentation cannot easily
open bank accounts to cash pay checks, they must
rely on check cashing services that take a percentage
of their money. How many of these services
(CheckMate, Payday Loans, etc.) did you pass today
as you went around town?
Migrants have to sleep under trees along the path.
How many beds do you have in your home?
____ x $.25=
Migrants will often bring a small piece of paper with
a few phone numbers or addresses of people they
will look up when they get to their destination. How
many phone numbers are stored in your cell phones?
Some migrants cross several borders before arriving
at their final destination. How many countries have
you been to?
If detained by the Border Patrol, a migrant will have
all of his/her personal belongings taken and
sometimes not returned. How many accessories (belt,
watch, wallet, jewelry, hat, etc.) are you wearing?
Many loved ones send a love letter or meaningful
note with the person making the journey North
hoping it will give them strength for the challenging
trip. How many notes have you sent to loved ones in
the last month?