Advent 2012: Preparing the Path–Justice

As we did throughout Advent 2011 and Lent 2012, we are blogging our way through the Advent 2012 Lectionary Readings. We love this time of year, and sharing with you in this way. Our overarching theme during this season is “Preparing the Path” and our prayer is that as we march together toward the manger, we will prepare the way for Emmanuel.

A reading from the Prophet Jeremiah

The LORD said: I made a wonderful promise to Israel and Judah, and the days are coming when I will keep it. I promise that the time will come when I will appoint a king from the family of David, a king who will be honest and rule with justice. In those days, Judah will be safe; Jerusalem will have peace and will be named “The LORD gives Justice.”

— Jeremiah 33:14-16 (CEV)

Justice.

For the past several months, one of the recurring subjects of meditation and discussion has been the idea of justice. And, here in this first Advent post, we’re confronted with it anew. This year’s Advent series is framed in the thematic context of “Preparing the Path”. As I ponder that theme coupled with this passage from Jeremiah, I’m struck with this thought: “Justice is at the beginning of the Path.”

It is often injustice that leads people to action. When people are mistreated, misrepresented, oppressed, or persecuted, we are led to act. We are led to usher in justice.

Yet, we often think of justice as the prosecution of those who have committed the mistreatment, misrepresentation, oppression, or persecution. In the Bible, justice is a different idea. Biblically, (in both Greek and Hebrew) justice shares a root with the word righteousness. They have the same basic idea–right legal and relational standing with God. In other words, to bring justice is to bring someone into a right legal and relational standing with God.

What if, for a moment, we stopped confusing justice and judgment.

Stopped confusing justice and retribution.

Stopped confusing justice and penalty.

And, what if, we viewed justice as bringing people into right legal and right relational standing with God.

Bringing people into a place of knowing who they are and whose they are.

Bringing people into the Kingdom of Heaven.

What if, in this Advent season, we viewed justice as freeing those who are wrongly imprisoned.

Lightening the burden of those who work for us (Isaiah 58:6).

Letting the oppressed go free (Isaiah 58:6).

Removing the chains that bind people (Isaiah 58:6).

Feeding the hungry (Isaiah 58:7).

Providing shelter to the homeless (Isaiah 58:7).

Clothing the naked (Isaiah 58:7)

Helping relatives (Isaiah 58:7).

Bringing good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1).

Comforting the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1).

Comforting those who mourn (Isaiah 61:1).

Rusty Playground in Central Asia (Used By Permission)

Rusty Playground in Central Asia (Used By Permission)

As I was writing this today, a friend in Central Asia posted a before-and-after picture of a playground. This playground is on a hillside that is home to the outcasts of society. It was rusted and battered. The ground around the play area was covered in trash. Yet, a handful of friends hiked up the hillside and spent the day cleaning and painting this playground. As I looked at those pictures again and again, I realized that what I was looking at was justice. It was loving the unloved. Something simple that will ultimately transform lives. And, as I was smiling at the picture, I know that Jesus was sitting on the edge of that playground smiling at those who had done the work.

And, we find ourselves at the edge of Advent. Walking down the ancient path that leads to the manger and the King resting therein. The King whose Kingdom will know no end. The King who will rule in honesty. The King who will rule with justice.

Will the path that you prepare be paved with justice?