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In a Season of Joy, Remember the Persecuted
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[Editors' note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. The lectionary readings for this post are Isaiah 7:10-25; Matthew 11:7-15; and Hebrews 10:32-39. Keep reading the Bread Blog for more Advent reflections each day.]
Two of today’s Advent passages are seasonally appropriate because the first passage is the prophecy of Jesus’s birth, and the second passage hints that he is the promised one. Then there’s the third passage. Who would have expected the season of joy and celebration to include a focus on “sufferings … abuse and afflictions?” The unknown writer of the letter to the Hebrews writes about these things, and leaves us to wonder, what relevance does this passage have for us? In the United States, I have never suffered abuse and afflictions for my faith. Teasing, perhaps, or awkward conversation, but I have never experienced real persecution.
But I know that there are hundreds of millions on this earth who have never experienced peace or an end to hunger or fear. For them, Christmas is still a time for suffering, regardless of the holiday. For Christians in Iraq, for example, their faith has put them in fear and danger, as it has our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters around the world, and even in our own neighborhood.
Is there nothing I can do about this? Perhaps there is. I can pray harder, give more generously, and most important, not just hear, but be the “voice of peoples long silenced.” I can speak out to my church and to our government when our national policies put people at risk. I can speak out in our own communities when we see intolerance at home.
Today’s scripture is instructive: “… sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction [ourselves], and sometimes being partners with those so treated.” When our brothers and sisters in Christ, or in common humanity, are abused or afflicted, we are called to be their partners.
Prayer: Loving God, please give us the courage and wisdom to be partners with your people in their suffering and oppression, and give us the words to be the voices of those long silenced.
Mary Krug is a member at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Visit their website at www.nyapc.org.
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