Episode 8: The Advent of Justice for the Stranger

As we await the coming of the Lord during the season of Advent, we are also acknowledging all that is broken in this world now. This episode is a contemplative exercise, a prayerful exploration of a particular place of injustice, and an invitation for Jesus to come into it.

For this Advent season, I thought about what I should do (or not do) on this podcast because I didn’t want to just add to the noise. I suppose it depends entirely on what circles you run in, but mine is currently overrun with Advent information—devotionals, reflections, books, blogposts, podcasts!, ideas for practicing at home, with your kids, in your church, etc., etc. etc…. So many of these resources are excellent and worthwhile, but I can’t do them all! I can’t even read them all! I currently I have about five or six devotionals just for Advent on my shelf, and that’s pretty much what they do—they sit on the shelf! 

I hope that you have found simple practices that help you attend to this season without feeling overwhelmed—and if you have not, I have some resources to offer you at the end of this episode.

It can become paralyzing—all these good and beautiful resources but no time to begin them! So I didn’t want to create another thing for you to “do”. If you are already listening, then maybe you are also sitting in your favorite chair and drinking some tea, or maybe you’re washing dishes. Perhaps you are driving to work, or to drop the kids off at school. You might be painting or knitting or making dinner….Wherever you are, God is with you right now. You don’t have to go off and find him; you have only to attend to his presence. 

But it is so difficult to see that he is present when the world is completely mad.I don’t think that it matters what country you’re in—there is so much to lament! In my country, the U.S., I can’t say things like that without worrying that someone is going to take that the wrong way, insinuate all kinds of things that I didn’t say into it, and then start an argument with me. That alone is lamentable. We have lost the ability, in so many ways, to really talk to each other, to be ok with differing views. We have stopped seeing our neighbor and instead have created an enemy where there really wasn’t one to begin with. I honestly feel sick to my stomach and a little anxious just talking about this right now. 

But, listen, guys. Advent is not just a countdown to presents. It is not another part of this crazy, consumeristic conspiracy for you to spend all your money on making your loved ones momentarily happy. In fact, I think so much of that is just a distraction from what is really hurting us, and ends up hurting us more. Instead of facing it, we cover it up with jubilant noise, so we no longer hear the cry for justice in our hearts, and the cognitive dissonance grows greater still, making us even more depressed—the very opposite of what Christmas should bring. 

Advent is a space, a liminal space, a waiting space, where we sit expectantly hoping for Christmas. We are waiting for what’s to come, and what’s to come is Christ’s return, his second coming, when he will put this whole messed up world right again. We also await his birth, in a different kind of way, because it already happened… but we put ourselves in the position of those who were waiting for the Messiah to be born, using our imaginations.

I wanted to create something that would help you attend to the season Right Now. So for the next three episodes, I’m going to be doing something a little different. I’m going to lead you through a time of contemplation of a certain type of injustice happening in the world today. We are going to look it in face, knowing that it will be conquered and made right, and in another way, has already been conquered and is being made right. 

If that makes you nervous and just want to end this episode right now, then you are not alone! That is instinct kicking in—we want to run and hide from what hurts us. But I promise, that my goal is to not bring more pain, but hope. We are going to look injustice right in that face, and we will see Jesus there. Ok?

We’re going to do this in this way:

We’ll look at an image—I realize that you may not be able to see the image right away (I’ll have a link in the show notes) but I’ll describe it very well. You’ll be able to hold it in your imagination.Why an image? It creates sort-of a cross section of a situation in which injustice is happening and allows up to explore it imaginatively but concisely. It gets to the heart of the situation quickly because we are not stopping to describe the political, sociological, or other types of factors. Imagine that you are dropped into this scene, immediately in front of the people in the image, not knowing anything else really. What would you do—these people need help.

Ok, so I’ll first describe the image at face value, and then go deeper into what I see there. What is the hurt, what is the injustice? Remember, it is always always always about the people, God’s children.

After confronting the image fully, we’ll then turn to scripture. I’ll have one, maybe two passages that we will read over a couple of times. These will also confront the type of injustice that is displayed in the image, but will bring hope to our hearts, because God is already on the job. 

Injustice-refugee.jpg

Ok, first up: this image was in the news recently, and you probably saw it. It is of a woman and two children at the Mexico/U.S. They are running from the tear gas being launched in their direction. Remember, before I go on, that that is the context of the image, but what is in the image is people, people who are made in the image of God. So if you are offended that I am bringing up this image, then sit with that for a minute. Why are you offended? What ties or allegiances do you have that might inhibit you from showing mercy or charity to God’s children. 

The woman, presumable the mother, is holding her children by their arms and they are running from the white smoke in the background. They must have had to start running quickly because one of the kids is being held by the wrong arm, so her body is twisted away from us, and she leaning over quite a bit. Her weight is probably being supported by her mom.  Both of the girls are wearing only t-shirts and diapers, without pants. One of the girls is wearing flip-flops. The other girl is running without shoes.

The mother looks over her shoulder as they run, obviously worried and afraid. She might be looking at what she is terrified of, or she might be looking at her daughter, running beside her.  She grasps her children with the full strength of her hands and pulls them away from danger. We do not what danger she has already tried to save her children from on her long journey. She is wearing tight black pants, maybe leggings, and a very tight t-shirt. It has the cartoon characters of Elsa and Anna from the Disney movie Frozenon it. It looks to have been made for a twelve year old girl, and is way too small for this woman. Her arms bulge out from the arm holes and it does not quite cover her belly. The fabric is stretched across her skin. Was this the only clothing she could find to wear? At what point on this journey must she be, to be wearing something so obviously uncomfortable. She is also carrying one sack. It looks to be nothing more than a large purse, something the size I would carry to the coffee shop, certainly not enough for a long journey or even an overnight stay. This woman seems to be alone with her children. There is no man present to be husband, or father, or protector and provider. 

There are other people in the image, seemingly separate from this family. In the foreground, they are also running away from the gas. In the background, there is a crowd. Some of them are running. Others are congregating. There is a baby stroller visible. And one person has a brace or cane. 

The ground around them is dry and barren. Nothing is growing here. It does’t look like a place a person would want to be, if they had a choice in the matter. It looks to be a place of waiting, maybe desperation, and even still, hope. 

Now let’s turn to the scriptures. 

Deuteronomy 24 

17 “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, 18 but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God reddened you from there; therefore I command you to do this.


Psalm 68: 

4 Sing to God, sing praises to his name;

lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;

his name is the LORD;

exult before him!

5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows

is God in his holy habitation.

6 God settles the solitary in a home;

he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,

but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.


Matthew 25

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, "‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Prayer from Magnificat, December 4th, Morning Prayer Intercession

As we await with joy the One who will rule the world with justice, let us pray:

R: Come and rule over us, Prince of Peace!

You bring the spirit of wisdom and understanding:

Build bridges of understanding among those who differ.

R: Come and rule over us, Prince of Peace!

You bring the spirit of counsel and strength: 

Guide the strong to assist the week. 

R: Come and rule over us, Prince of Peace!

You bring the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord:

Enlighten us with true knowledge of you during this holy season

R: Come and rule over us, Prince of Peace!



(Place personal intentions or prayer needs here.)


Our Father…



God our Father, you have promised us peace in the kingdom won for us by your Son. Carve in our hearts a place of peace where all may be invited to dwell in your love, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen. 


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Resources

Tend Podcast, Episode 7: Preparing for Advent (B)

My friend, Tamara, hosts a series every year on her blog. (P)

My new friend, Carissa Pluta, has a blogpost about some devotionals that are worth looking at.(C)

This Living Today Well blogpost about a restful Advent (C)

And, my friend David made the ultimate Advent devotional list. (P)

Key: C for Catholic, P for Protestant, and B for Both, but go ahead and check them all out!

As always, our gorgeous music is by Asher Graieg-Morrison.

Erin Ware