‘Occupy,’ Advent have their similarities | Interfaith Column | Dec. 16

Sometimes doesn’t it just seem like things are coming together?

Maybe that sounds odd in the face of all the gloom and doom pervading our nation and world.

There certainly are good reasons for the pessimism – vast income disparity, war, environmental calamity and on and on.

Still, I’m struck by the perhaps faint, but certainly persistent signs of hope I see in the strong connections between the Occupy movement and the coming of Christmas.

Those of us who identify as Christian are in the midst of the Advent season. Advent, observed on the four Sundays before Christmas day, marks our waiting and preparing for the light – the light of God’s entry into our gloomy world.

For many of us that means preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus over 2,000 years ago.

But it’s more than that. There are those in the Christian tradition who remind us that Advent is a time to prepare for the second coming, or the still-continuing arrival, of Christ into our world.

How do we prepare for that?

Here’s what John the Baptist advised his followers when he announced the first coming of Christ: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

That message is reinforced by Jesus himself when he begins his preaching in Galilee saying the very same thing. And it’s the very same message Jesus instructs his disciples to preach after he’s gone.

Advent, then, like its cousin Lent, is a time to repent. Repent: turn away from your selfish, sinful ways; turn towards God, turn towards the good.

Turning towards the good, towards God, calls us to envision the “kingdom of heaven.”

The kingdom of heaven: not so much about pie-in-the-sky as about the kind of world – in Jesus’ time and in ours – Jesus’ teachings and actions advocated.

A world in which the downtrodden are uplifted, violence is forsaken, and all of creation flourishes.

That “kingdom” sure sounds a lot like the signs and slogans coming from the Occupy camps, doesn’t it?

Several of us from Eagle Harbor Congregational Church recently attended an “Occupy Seattle” forum at Plymouth United Church of Christ in downtown Seattle.

We were joined by approximately 100 others from various faith traditions in the area, as well as by several of the Occupy Seattle “organizers.”

In small groups, we spent the morning talking about what Occupy is, how it moves us, and what actions we can take to support the movement.

The conversation there helped gel what I now see as the crux of the Occupy matter.

As Muslim Sufi minister Jamal Rahman noted in my small group, Occupy is bringing to light the spiritual crisis that grips our nation and indeed our world.

The crisis: greed has over-run the common good, and thus the common good suffers.

While it’s convenient and sometimes appropriate to blame the 1 percent, it is a crisis fueled by far more than 1 percent of our population.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that each and every one of us harbors the seeds of this crisis within our own duplicitous hearts: hearts that are divided between selfish greed (sin), and genuine concern for the common good (characterized by Jesus’ second commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”)

As I see it, Advent and Occupy are of the same two-fold nature: they call on us to admit and renounce our harmful ways to ourselves and to others, and they call on us to envision and take action towards a future that’s good for all of creation.

It’s a message that resonated more than 2,000 years ago, and it resonates still.

I am heartened that so many today are hearing, and heeding, the call.


Jennifer Merrill is office manager and a member

of Eagle Harbor Congregational Church.

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