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THE COMMON RULE
in collaboration with
invites you to join in
Habits of Light
for a World of Darkness
"Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother." We sing this every year. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me ... to set at liberty those who are oppressed." We read this every year.
Despite its central place in the Christmas story, justice and reconciliation are still words that seem a bit uncomfortable at Christmas time. Because while Jesus came to tell a story of shalom, our Christmas traditions tell us a different story.
Traditions function like habits. Because of course, they are habits. Collective habits. And like all habits, traditions can obscure significant meaning. Jesus came to renew the world. But Black Friday shopping traditions draw us into a very different kind of meaning. Jesus came to set us in right relationships with each other. But the busyness of the holidays can draw us into a strange isolation. American habits and traditions of Christmas can often work to obscure one of the core messages of Advent - that Christ came to set relationships right, and when he comes again he will come with justice.
But it doesn't have to be celebrated like that. The Common Rule is all about aligning mundane habits to magnificent truths so that our hearts and our heads can align. We always have the power to change traditions and habits. But there is only one way to do that - by adopting new ones. Hence this year's Advent Edition of The Common Rule.
This year's Advent Edition! is a collaboration with Arrabon, and focused on longing for the justice and reconciliation that King Jesus inaugurated in his first coming, and celebrating what he will bring to completion in his second coming. There are two sides to this: waiting & celebrating.
Advent should disturb us. Advent is the declaration that something is broken in the ways we treat each other. Intentionally and unintentionally, we design systems that oppress each other. On purpose or not, we cultivate habits and traditions that prevent us from seeing each other. For one reason or another, we would all prefer not to see what is wrong with the world. We tell ourselves stories where it is somehow not that bad, or somehow doesn't have to do with us. But whether we care to admit it or not, we are responsible for each other, and when Christ looks at the world he sees a world where "the slave is our brother." Advent disturbs because when Jesus comes we are exposed.
But Advent also breaks the chains. Advent is the astonishing declaration that ALL chains will break. Those are the chains of our unbelief. The chains of our addictions. The chains of our worship of idols. But they are also the literal chains that keep sex slaves in small dark rooms and the metaphorical chains that work in political and economic systems to ensure the poor stay poor. They are the chains of formal and informal traditions that perpetuate racial segregation and inequity in American cities. They are the chains of our blindness. All these chains will break. Often, even talk of injustice can bring either self-loathing, because we don't know what to do about it, or blaming, because everyone else's problem is easier to see than our own. But Advent breaks the chains of that. Advent reminds us that King Jesus will set ALL THINGS right, so our true laments can turn to true celebration.
In short, Jesus the King has come to restore shalom - peace on earth in every sense. "As far as the curse is found," so we sing. The curse is worth weeping over. But the King is worth partying over.
The habits of The Common Rule this Advent will draw you into this often lesser proclaimed theme of the promise of Justice. Some of the habits will be the same - like the daily habits of reading scripture before phone or avoiding using your phone while waiting. Some habits will be new, like habits of befriending someone across societal boundaries, or partnering with an organization that works with racial reconciliation.
All the habits hope to change you, and they hope to change your Advent season. Our prayer is that in adopting some new communal habits, you will enter an Advent that makes you long for justice with a depth like never before, and that brings a peace like never before - because the King of justice is coming!
The PDF of the 2018 Advent Guide will be released in early November.
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