I wrote a little about Advent a couple of days ago, through the lens of the Magnificat, Mary’s prophetic song that’s touched a nerve in troubled times. It’s easy to see why; it’s a promise of a better world, a world of justice and peace and equality, concepts that feel particularly under threat at the moment.
But at the same time, Mary’s vision feels like big picture stuff, an advent protest song that looks forward into the future, into a redeemed world still to come. Yes, the baby in the manger was and is and will be the instigator of that world, but we’re not living there yet. Nine months after Mary sang her song of praise, she was giving birth in a stable while death squads stalked the land for her son. How did she cling on to her hope and vision as she and Joseph tried to sneak a newborn over the border and away from infanticide and a psychotic king?
It’s a reminder that, at advent, we have to zoom in, to view the coming of the Kingdom though the echoes and reflections and previews that are breaking through, daisies emerging through cracks in the pavement. It’s too easy to lose hope while waiting for the world to change; we have to focus on the things that birth optimism and, conversely, that which makes us angry enough to insist that things must change.
Mary sang a song of hope and prophecy that we still treasure today. But she still saw her husband die and her son crucified. Hope is messy.
That’s why we need to focus on people; people who are scared, people who are oppressed, people who are seeing vast movements of politics and economics and are feeling crushed between their gears, people who are dehumanised, people who are rejected and marginalised, the Othered and the despised and the scapegoated. That’s where we start.
And advent can break through into the most unexpected places, if we push it, if we open the doors. There’s a hashtag doing the rounds of Twitter, #LooAdvent, started by @SazBrisdion to raise awareness of the lack of appropriate public toilet facilities for people with disabilities (something we’ve talked about here before). Meanwhile, @Elf_On_Wheels is doing a Christmas tour of the UK to highlight the lack of wheelchair and other disabled access throughout the country.
Both of these campaigns are using the trappings of Christmas to draw attention to matters of justice and compassion, and they aim to enact change for people who are often pushed to the margins. And neither Twitter account aims to topple the government or send ideologies crashing to the floor, but they want to see justice and fairness break through into the world. There’s something advent-y about that. Something Christmassy.