By: The Join the Movement Toward Racial Justice Team
Over the last few years, we have experienced moments of reckoning that served as catalysts for movements toward racial justice – our lives have been filled with awakenings. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have surfaced deepening misgivings about police and policing, while also showing us the beauty and strength of collective power mobilized for justice. Hate crimes against our AAPI kin have shown us the way xenophobia lives and moves within us, while also bringing to light the profound possibilities of intersectional solidarity. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the racial components of economic, healthcare, and other disparities, while also giving us glimpses of a world slowed down enough to prioritize collective care. But now, as verdicts are handed down, news cycles move on, and people take off their masks and try to return to “normal,” we are left with questions about how we sustain these awakenings. What turns cataclysmic moments into transformational movements? Keeping awake seems to be one part of Jesus’ answer to this kind of question.
In Matthew’s narrative, Jesus’ instruction to “keep awake” comes as tensions are rising between his ministry and the powers that be. It is part of Jesus’ last set of stories and teachings to his disciples before the events that led to his death unfold. I imagine the disciples had experienced so many awakenings, so many cataclysmic moments that changed and challenged them. Their complacency had been roused, their souls had been stirred, they had been convicted enough by what Jesus preached and practiced to follow him all the way to the brink. But Jesus knows that waking up is only part of the journey. Given what is coming, the disciples will need a practice of wakefulness to sustain this Jesus movement of radical love into the future. They will need to cultivate habits and actions to help them live into the promise of the new realm of God that is to come. They will need to keep awake to the nearness of God, even in Jesus’ absence.
In Advent, we practice active waiting, persistent hope, expectant preparation – honoring both our current realities that yearn for God’s presence and our trust in the promise that Love has and will dwell with us, in the flesh. Abolition, too, is a practice of active waiting, persistent hope, and expectant preparation for deeper manifestations of freedom to emerge in the midst of the enslaving paradigms that plague our society, from the prison industrial complex to militarism to racialized violence and oppression. How will you keep awake this advent to the dreams of freedom promised and coming near? What abolition practices will you engage to sustain your awakenings to God’s love made flesh in and among us?
Emanuel, God-with-us, we long for your presence.
This Advent, while we are waiting and preparing,
show us how you draw near even now
in glimpses of a new day dawning,
in dreams of freedom emerging.
Through our practices of hope,
keep us awake and moving toward justice. Amen.
Artwork: “In This Body” by Yohana Junker (discover more at: https://www.yohanajunker.com/)
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