We anticipate, we celebrate, we rejoice...the promise fulfilled, the long awaited Savior come, God in flesh appearing ....even as we remember that the first Advent is not the entire story. The best is yet to come...the One born a helpless babe in a stable will someday return in clouds of glory! And it is this someday that causes us to live, even in the midst of the advent season, in a tension between the "now" and the "not yet," between the first and the second Advent.
Because even as we sing, "Peace on earth" we see that earth is not even close to being at peace. Even as we carol, "Let earth receive her King" we see that only a few of the multitudes on earth acknowledge their king, while most remain oblivious to the reason for the season. We read that this baby was born to "proclaim liberty to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the downtrodden and to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19), but we see the "not yet" of this announcement....
we see the captives and downtrodden are not yet free---
we see little boys stolen away to work as slaves in cocoa plantations
we see little girls with delicate hands working in third world factories, assembling tiny parts
we see desperate women chained to their sewing tables in sweatshops. forced to work
seven days a week for long hours in inhumane conditions for less than living wages
we see hopeless men deep in the diamond mines straining in darkness,
in danger, risking their lives and sanity for less than the cost of a meal...
the unseen workers who produce the very gifts we buy to celebrate the birth of the One who proclaimed liberty to the captive.
And in this season of celebration of the first Advent, are we, who bear His name, who gather in our churches to watch Nativity plays and sing carols, are we not the ones who are blind?
Are we not the ones who are blind to the heart of God toward those treated unjustly?
Toward God's multiple commands throughout His word to speak up for the poor and oppressed?
To our responibility to bring about the reality of liberty for the captive and freedom for the downtrodden?
As we live in the "not yet" between Advent's, is it not our responsibilty to speak up for fair trade, for a living wage for the workers whose goods we consume, for decent working conditions , for no more slavery in the marketplace?
Is our discipleship divorced from justice?
Does righteousness not demand that we be responsible for where we spend our money?
Does "keeping Christ in Christmas"not mean loving our neighbor as ourselves....
even if our neighbor is a third world worker whose face we will never see?
I have come late to this conviction. For years I just didn't know...I didn't think...I was blind. I ate my Hershey bars without thinking about who harvested my chocolate. I bought my clothes without considering the women who sewed them. I drank my coffee completely clueless as to the conditions of those who grew them. I spent my money without any consideration of the impact of my choices on the people affected by my purchases.
But then, my eyes were opened. The one who came to "proclaim sight to the blind" showed me the truth about sweatshops, and slavery and oppression, and the need for fair trade. He opened my eyes to the need to "do justly and to love mercy" and to "speak up for the rights of the poor and oppressed", and I couldn't pretend that I didn't know.
And so I take stumbling, baby steps toward being responsible, toward acting justly, toward making hard choices in my spending. I leave the Hershey bar on the shelf, I change my brand of coffee, I research companies on the web, I sell Trades of Hope to give women a living wage, I try to increase my purchases of fair trade items in exchange for what I used to buy. My efforts are small, my understanding is limited, my awareness is still in its infancy, but I am haltingly trying to pursue righteousness in this area of my life. Because if how I spend my money isn't part of being a disciple, then what is? And because now I can see, I must speak as well as act.
"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend that we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act." Proverbs 24:12
And now you know, also.
So what do you think? I would love to hear your response. To encourage you, I will give away a beautiful Fair Trade item from Trades of Hope to one person who comments and/or shares this post on facebook. If you both comment and share, I will enter your name twice! Contest closes a week from today (Dec. 20)