Unsettling Advent, Day 26 - Word&Way

Unsettling Advent, Day 26

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

The arrival of the Omicron variant has disrupted my Christmas plans and I know I’m not alone. We are almost two years into a pandemic we thought would be over by now and it is sometimes difficult to find hope.

During this time, a vocal subset of Americans have spent their energy manufacturing reasons to feel oppressed, whether that is protesting masks or vaccines. In a world where there is so much actual injustice, this is disheartening to say the least.

This false righteousness is unequivocally putting lives in danger. Somewhere around 58,000 people who died would have been saved if every state had implemented a straightforward mask mandate. And that statistic only covers 2020.

It turns out that the keystone of Christianity — loving your neighbor as yourself — is maybe more radical than we usually think of it as being.

But selfishness, unlike Omicron, is not a new development. And while it is easy to get upset and angry at the oversized truck with a “Fight COVID Tyranny” bumper sticker, I would argue that this reaction is misplaced.

The modern resonances of the Advent story help us to refocus our energy on the real culprits: those who wield power. It is the Herods of the world who are taking advantage of people’s fears to gain or hold on to positions of wealth and influence.

Of course the various strangers who could have helped a poor, pregnant woman and her partner find a comfortable place to shelter should have done so. But they were not the ones who ordered the execution of a child from the throne.

Self-interested leaders have always used and misled people toward wicked ends. But what those leaders are truly threatened by is a figure who shows us that you can’t love people and be afraid of them at the same time. In the words of Bruce Prewer, it was “that baby crying in the night who frightened jewelled kings and shook the gates of hell.”

Jeremy Fuzy is the voices editor at Word&Way and a Ph.D. candidate at the Missouri School of Journalism.

NOTE: This is part of our Unsettling Advent devotionals running Nov. 28-Dec. 24. You can subscribe for free to receive them each morning in your inbox.