December 5: “Freedom is Coming”

By the Rev. Emily Trubey-Weller
Preaching texts: the RCL’s texts for Advent 2C

I made a mistake. I taught my two-year-old the phrase “not yet.”

Of course, I did it in the service of proper biblical exegesis. We were learning about the Kin-dom of God as we talked about certain parables of Jesus, and as many wiser biblical scholars than I point out, these images for the Kin-dom of God help us to imagine what can be, but isn’t always a reality yet.  

But to a two-year-old, the phrase “not yet” has a somewhat different meaning:

“Time to brush your teeth, buddy!” 

“Not yet, mama!”

“Time to go potty!”

“Not yet, mama!”

“Time to get your shoes on, we really need to get going!”

“Not yet, mama!”

YES YET, DARN IT. YES YET!

Perhaps the mistake I really made was to leave out the “already” part of the “already-and-not-yet” of Advent. 

Today, our gospel lesson isn’t a parable but it is all about the coming of the Kin-dom of God. We are well into Advent territory at this point, and we know that something is on the way (and it’s not only Jolly Old St. Nick). 

John the Baptist urges us to prepare for this arrival by a baptism of repentance. He channels Isaiah as he proclaims (and I paraphrase), “Prepare the way of the Lord! Make paths straight, fill in the valleys, bring those mountains down low, straighten things out, and smooth the rough places! Then everyone can see the salvation of God!”  This preparation is total. This baptism is complete. It is thorough. Everything within us, around us, and beyond us will be made ready.

The context of this declaration of preparation is incredibly specific. The author of Luke wants us to know the exact year of the emperor’s rule in which this takes place, who is in power in various regions, who the religious leaders are, and from what people the messenger who bears this declaration comes. 

This isn’t just any old preparation. It has a purpose, a time, and a place. 

Amidst a world that is all about power and conquest, 

among a people who are ruled and oppressed,

outside of the expected religious centers,

God is preparing a transformation that is so complete it will change everything
down to the landscape of our world and our hearts,

a transformation that is so complete no one could possibly miss it.

And though the people are to prepare for the arrival of this transformation as if it hasn’t happened yet, that little baby in the manger was born roughly 30 years before John began his proclamation, at least according to the author of Luke. That’s roughly 2021 years before we ourselves study this story together. For us, Jesus’ birth, ministry, passion, death, and resurrection are all past. Still…

“Not yet, mama!”

And also, “NOW, kid!”

This transformation has already arrived, but it’s one we are still undergoing, still waiting to see fully realized. It is a change that we — especially those of us sitting in places of privilege like myself,  up on those mountains that are to be brought low — might not always embrace. We may well want to stop our feet, or go about our business as usual, and cry “Not yet!” But our parent-God has had enough with our tantrums and stalling tactics. “NOW, kid!” they cry.

The song “Freedom is Coming” triumphantly declares a transformation that is both happening and not yet fully realized. As a freedom-song of the South African anti-apartheid movement, and eventually a freedom-song sung throughout the world, “Freedom is Coming” is all about helping people to imagine something that can be but isn’t yet. Even in the midst of violent oppression, racist political and social systems, tyrannical leadership, and a history of colonial control, the people of South Africa could sing about a freedom that was on the way. They could imagine a time when mountains of oppression would be laid low and paths to equality would be made straight. This song sang to them in a voice true and clear about the transformation that was already underway.

So does the voice of God sing out to us.

We might well cry out to God: “Not yet, mama!” 

God sends John the Baptist to declare, “NOW, kid!”

And God sends you, preacher-friend, to declare it to your people. 

What does it look like to declare “freedom is coming!” in your specific time and place? 

What does it look like to prepare for this complete and total transformation that is already-and-not-yet in   name of your state or city HERE under the rule of   name of your state or local leaders HERE  in the year 2021 in   name of your ministry site HERE  ?

Where do you already see the Good News of Jesus’ arrival in the world, and where is it not-yet the world that God imagines for us?

Freedom is coming…Jesus is coming….

“Not yet, mama!”

“NOW, kid!”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: