Overturning empire’s power
Luke 1:68-79, 3:1-6
By Miriam Spies, an MDiv student at Emmanuel College (United Church) in Toronto. Miriam is in a community placement with KAIROS. We’re posting this entry on December 6, when Canada remembers the 14 women murdered in 1989 at L’Ecole polytechnique in Montreal.
As we enter into the second week of Advent, the week focussed on peace, we are introduced into a very political Christmas narrative. Luke is clear in naming the powers of the empire, the world that must pass away before we can see a new way of life.
Luke names the leaders – Tiberius, Augustus, Pilate, Herod – who rule the empire, caring little for the needs of the people. Christ was not born in a peaceful time. Emmanuel, God with us, comes so that we may overturn this imperial power.
In today’s world, we witness leaders who continue to uphold empire, making decisions for profit over people. Human rights and the rights of creation are being ignored. In Canada, we hear of hundreds of Indigenous women who are missing or have been murdered. Around the world, the most vulnerable are plagued with the effects of war and violence. Declarations are signed, voices are lifted in protest, and Women of Courage are prophetically calling people to action. Where does the path to peace lie in all of this?
In the time before Christ comes, the word of God comes to a prophet in the wilderness. It is a message to transform, a message focussed on the marginalized. The word comes in midst of the messy reality defined by both secular and religious powers. But the word does not come to the leaders of government or through the high priests; rather, it finds a man wandering at the margins of society. This voice is for everyone to hear. The small and unexpected comes as an answer to the hierarchical political structure. John is called to share this word of peace, the coming of the Prince of peace, with a wounded world.
John must set out to prepare a path. He calls for repentance, the turning of an entire people. The poor among us lack food, the health of creation is shunted aside in the name of jobs and money, and people suffer from occupation. This way of life, as it was in the time of John the Baptist, is unsustainable and full of greed.
People are invited into the wilderness, away from the centre of society, to die to the world that must pass away and rise again to full life in the new world that is waiting to be birthed. A world, listening to the wisdom and voices from those on the margins, that will work for peace with justice. Our society seeks reforming and cleansing before that vulnerable baby, Emmanuel, comes to turn the world around.
What must we let go of? What systems of power must be dismantled? How must we get turned around to witness the kingdom of God in our midst? Let us seek to re-imagine a world, breaking open our hearts and our lives to that Christ child.
Gracious God, be with us as we journey towards a new vision, where those on the margins are seen as prophets, and we can share peace in a broken world.