Advent 2021: The Struggle for Racial Justice

Joan Neal
November 27, 2021

The 1st Sunday of Advent symbolizes Hope with the “Prophet’s Candle” reminding us of the prophetic ministries, especially Isaiah, that foretold of Jesus’ birth. In this year’s Advent reflection series from NETWORK, Joan Neal, our Deputy Executive Director and Chief Equity Officer, reflects on the implications that the coming of Jesus at Christmas has for racial justice in our world today:

God is with Us in the Struggle for Racial Justice

Advent is a time when so many Christians prepare to welcome Jesus at Christmas. But what does that mean lived out in the U.S. today? And what demands does it make of us who believe? Remember, Jesus was a person of color and member of a religious and ethnic group that lived in the shadow of the most powerful empire in the history of the world up to that time.

“He knew what it was to be oppressed in this system,” says writer, activist, and NETWORK board member Leslye Colvin. “He knew the history of his people and how his people had been in bondage, and all the ups and down of their journey.”

From the moment he is born, Jesus is a target of state powers that seek his violent and unjust death. They ultimately succeeded, abetted by religious leaders of the time, in publicly putting him to death in his 30s. There are still people who are unjustly targeted today. Despite making up only 13% of the population, Black people comprise 38% of the U.S. prison population and over a third of defendants executed in the U.S. in the last 45 years. Among unarmed victims, police kill three times as many Black people as white people. Also, Black and other people of color face persistent and pernicious efforts to exclude our voices from the political process through restrictive new voting laws that 17 states have enacted in just the past year. Unjust racial targeting is alive and well today.

In the Gospel this weekend, Jesus urges us, “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent.” These words resonate, not just with Black people and other people of color, but with the struggle of all who hunger and thirst for racial justice. None of us can afford to turn a blind eye or to ignore the growing racism and racial violence in our country. We have seen the cost of falling asleep will be catastrophic for the entire country.

Advent calls us all, especially people of faith, to stay awake! To be willing, as Jesus was, to see and confront morally unfair structures and to stand for justice no matter the cost. To truly make a place for Jesus in our hearts and our country, we must realize and embrace our common humanity and God-given dignity. We must summon the strength to live in solidarity rather than in separation. Trusting that God is always with us, we must be prophets and practitioners of this change today.

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