When I settled into my seat on the airplane and the crew were preparing to shove off from the gate, the announcements began about safety aboard the aircraft. It is a familiar recitation to many frequent flyers and so, it seemed, many ignored the instructions about seat belts, life vests, and rafts … Later the captain of the plane announced some specifics of the flight and lastly explained that the main reason there is a crew moving around the cabin is for the safety of the passengers.
Somehow, that emphasis on safety jumped out at me as I wondered about people everywhere who found themselves frightened and unsafe. Some of those cases are in the headlines of the newspapers. Yet, I am certain, the majority of those who are unsafe live in obscurity. They may be the invisibles living on the streets of our cities; the women who are abused in relationships behind closed doors; the children who are neglected, unwanted and unloved among the rich and the poor; the elderly who live alone with the uncertainties of care and security for their tomorrows; and those struggling with mental illness, addiction, and imprisonment.
The plane reached its prescribed altitude and I heard it was now safe for me to move about the cabin. However, I continued to wonder.
How do Christians adequately respond to the desperate fears of so many who long to be and feel safe in an unsafe world?
Today we begin the Advent Season – that special set-aside time of preparation for the Birth of the Messiah. Jesus, Son of Mary – Son of God, was born into a people who lived in desperation and fear. In their homeland occupied by Roman soldiers, they were oppressed, overly taxed, and humiliated. They longed for freedom and for safety as they looked for the promise of the Messiah to be realized.
They knew well the words of the prophet Jeremiah we hear this Sunday:
I will raise up for David a just shoot; He shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
The God who created the beauty of the skies and the loveliness of the lands and the sea below that aircraft sent into this world a Savior. And this Savior is not offering the world a philosophy, an economic system, a military empire or anything of the like. He offers Himself – a relationship that transforms and fulfills persons who accept the invitation. The invitation is one of radical love – both to receive this love and to share it; to be the “crew members” who walk about to ensure the safety and well-being of one another, thus creating a world in which the inherent dignity of every person is recognized, and the basic human rights to live in freedom, safety, and security are valued.
This first Sunday of Advent in 2018 opens before us a world filled with frightened, hungry, suffering, and lonely people. For Christians, those yoked into a true relationship with Jesus, the Savior of the world, it is the season to unleash the longed-for well-being in a world desperate for relief. Employing the radical love and justice of our faith are the prescriptions for working towards a world in which the words of the Prophet Jeremiah can be realized.