Advent 2020 – November 30

A Revolutionary Advent
 Jim Brenneman
(Rev. Dr. James (Jim) Brenneman is president of Berkeley School of Theology in Berkeley, CA)

1In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, 2and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that God may teach us God’s ways and that we may walk in God’s paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 3The Lord shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; 4but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. 5For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.  — Micah 4:1-5

Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher, declared “All things come to pass and perish through strife.”  Much later, Thomas Jefferson seemed to agree. “The tree of liberty,” he proclaimed, “must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Darwin saw nature primarily as “red in tooth and claw.” Are we really destined to such self-fulfilling prophecies of warfare, violence, and bloodshed? Is humanity and nature simply bound by fate to be what Oliver Stone’s famous movie title suggests, Natural Born Killers?

Against the tide of such realpolitik, cultural philosophies, and natural determinism, comes Advent each year to remind us that time and space bend to God’s imaginative alternatives. Micah’s prophecies about an unexpected hour, a future day when the nations of the world and their peoples will voluntarily stream up against nature’s gravitational pull, up to the highest mountain, the mountain of the Lord. And there under the tutelage of Rabbi God, they will submit their differences for mediation, reparation, and reconciliation. They will do the unimaginable and agree to melt down their weapons of war into implements of agriculture. They will board up their various war colleges, forever.

But that’s not all. All the savings made available from abolishing the military-industrial complex on that mountain are reallocated down in the valley so that all who dwell there will get their fair share. All will have enough to own their very own piece of real estate, to relax under their very own vines and fig trees. But even more, and after all that, this Lord of Hosts, unlike every other mythic and earthly lord, doesn’t demand ultimate loyalty and credit. Instead, all the peoples, be they Muslim or Sikh or Hindu or Christian or Jew, every single one, is free; wildly free to receive these blessings in the name of their own God. In these five short verses, Micah imagines an Advent like no other: a social, economic, environmental, and religious revolution.

Is it too much to imagine such a revolutionary Advent for ourselves? With God’s help, let us devote our imaginations, our hopes, our dreams, our wills, our actions, and our lives to making this prophecy come true to the blessing of the whole world.