Day 22 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 22: Joy is Resistance | Michelle Higgins, Christina Edmondson, Ekemini Uwan

 

“While shepherds kept their watch o’er silent flocks by night… “

We sing Go Tell it On The Mountain every year. The kids choir sings it, the congregation sings it, the worship team attempts some revamp in rehearsal then just decides to keep to the old school traditional gospel foot stomper that it is. But even when it gets old it’s never tired.

For Jesus Christ, the King of Ages, is coming into the world. Like the shepherds who were stunned by the sight of God’s angel, we are often shaken with fear. The “good news of great joy that will be to all people” is a shock to some and comfort to others. We need this message on repeat. We can all join the chorus, as the shepherds did. And while everyone one who hears us wonders at our words, it is possible to express the joy of the Lord in the face of the frailty of man-made powers.

In fact, we protest the foolishness of the world by having joy, right now, in the midst of oppression. Our shouts of joy, like that of the shepherds, are the biblical response to the coming of the Messiah from Bethlehem. In God’s wisdom, He brought the shepherds together even before they saw the Star of promise and they experienced the good news together. Today we come together with the people of God around the world and celebrate the birth of the King!  Today we laugh, sing, dance, and clap in the expression which looks like foolishness to the simple because the object of our longing has now come.

It is in this rejoicing that we find the source and example of our celebrations today. The shepherds might have wondered “why” at the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. Yet, it may be the humble elements of the King’s entrance that brought both praise and promise. The King of Creation, the Author of Salvation, was born in a barn. The Messiah sent a sky full of singing angels to a field for the great announcement of the King’s birth. Meanwhile a bright but single star signaled the great philosophers who would deliver word to the man who thought himself king.

I imagine the shepherds receiving this good news with both tears and laughter. Perhaps all God’s people were looking for a legendary King David style grand entrance. Yet the Son of David burst into the world through awkward social circumstances. Y’all, Jesus’ parents were a married couple expecting a baby… yet waiting to have sex! You can’t tell me Elizabeth didn’t at least chuckle at that, if Mary told her. Even when God’s mercies interrupt our dire situations, He sends the sweet comfort of joy and laughter to lead us through seasons of want and waiting. This too is resistance.

As we await the second Advent, let us remember to laugh. I mean deep belly laughs. Let tears of laughter push back on fear and unproductive anger. Christ has imparted righteousness, strength and dignity. For this reason, we can laugh. Our humor is a gift from God. Let us remember to bring joy and wit on this journey. Let us be witty waiting women. Remember, Proverbs provides deep wisdom for these moments, days and years ahead. “She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)

 

Father,

We thank you that one of your means of sanctification is made manifest in us during appointed times of waiting. With all of the sin, sorrow, and oppression in this world, the enemy seeks to take our joy. Oh, but we remember that the joy that we have was not given to us by the world. No! The joy that we have was given to us by the Holy Spirit and it’s lodged deep within our souls, safe from the winds of change this world brings. Father, we thank you that our joy is found in the person of Jesus Christ. We thank you for Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. We thank you that He is interceding for us even now and we pray for His soon return. We pray all of this in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen

 

Merry Christmas, sistas!

 

Songs:

Whitney Houston, Wonderful Counselor

Common ft. Bilal, Joy and Peace

Joe Pace, And We Are Glad

Joy, Whitney Houston

Optimistic, Sounds of Blackness

Joy to the World, Earth, Wind & Fire

Day 21 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 21: Truthfully Waiting | Christina Edmondson

In 2017, I have found myself daily using the sometimes humorous but simplistically profound “black church-isms.” These in-group cultural expressions that contain within pieces of social logic and proverbial wisdom are passed down generationally. So, for example, after glancing at a cable news story on the state of politics or racism/greed (basically the same thing), I might feel a “God don’t like ugly” on my tongue. Local and international incidents of despair and uncertainty might result in a loud “Jesus be a fence!” or “Fix it!”

The list goes on and one with phrases like:

“It’s tight but it’s right”

“He can make a way out of no way”

“He is an on time God”

But, of all the drama of 2017, there has been one black church-ism that seems to best capture the entire year for me.

“Tell the truth and shame the devil.”

It’s a phrase that acknowledges that the truth has consequences but is still necessary. The “shaming of the devil” no doubt results in attacks but the command to tell the truth remains. The fact that is sometimes hard to feel is that the father of lies has been conquered by the King of Truth. When we seek to understand and exclusively speak the truth about our own sinful desires, the truth of the grace and sin that ripples through all the of creation, and the truth of redemption in Christ’s perfect sacrifice alone we walk in the footsteps of Jesus. However, these are steps that lead right to Calvary. We must wait for the Truth, truthfully.

 

Telling a hard truth to a hard person is no easy task. Whether I was wearing the hat of counselor, educator or administrator, having to relay difficult news is an essential part of servant leadership.

“Ma’am, what your daughter is afraid to tell you is that your brother or boyfriend is molesting her?”

“You are not happy working here and it is impacting the entire environment? What can we do to change this immediately?

“You seem to have a high tolerance for injustice towards people of color and low empathy for their suffering compared to whites. What are you doing to repent of your racial bias?

While the truth must be told in love and for the sake of love, that doesn’t mean it loses its sting or that people will like it. As a matter of fact, if you tell the truth plainly and clearly to those literally banking on lies you are going to catch some judgement, frustration and attempts to silence you. You and I might imperfectly try to relay what know and see as true, Jesus communicates the perfect truth. Note this exchange between the King of Truth and the truth-manipulating political agent of the day, Pilate.

 

John 18:28-40

Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die. Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising. 

 

As Jesus journeys to the cross, he encounters the politically savvy and opportunistic Pilate. After an exchange with some of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, Pilate interrogates Jesus and we hear a gripping revelation and many insights. Here I hope to quickly share a few and I invite you to dig into this fascinating exchange. First, we see these religious leaders we can see our own sinful inclinations to use politicians and those with civil power to execute a perverse injustice against those we despise or threaten our “reign.” In other words, while desiring to look pious for Passover, the religious at the same time handed over the greater Passover, Jesus Christ. Our inclination to use the state or government systems to perform our bigotry, hatred and apathy while looking ceremonially clean is sinful and ends in death. God sees our intentions and impact. He holds us responsible for caring more about looking loving while using others to promote hate.

Second, Pilate interrogates Jesus in what seems like an attempt to keep his hands clean but nonetheless dishonor the true King. Both Jews and Gentiles, people representing all cultures, nations and tongues, need the King of Truth. But, in this scriptural moment we see all the world reject Christ as the saving King of Truth. The religious leaders, the political agents, the radicals of the day and the members of the crowd all reject Jesus.

Ultimately, Christ gives us the answer to Advent as he stands before Pilate.   “I was born and came into this world to testify to the truth.” Jesus, the greater Passover, came to us for the sake of cleansing life-giving truth. Jesus, the greater Adam, came to redeem all of humanity by obedience. Jesus, the greater Esther, comes to put His life on the line before political magistrates and earthly kings to save His people. For such a time as this, Jesus came into this world as a baby, to grow in wisdom and demonstrate obedience, love and justice.

Jesus even now functions as the great truth-teller interceding for the Beloved Church. Can you hear these words…”? “Yes, she has sinned but she is covered in my righteousness. The blood speaks for her now. I am making all things new.”

Jesus shares that everyone on the side of truth listens to him. To this Pilate replies with frustration and dismissal, “what is the truth?” The truth was standing directly in Pilate’s face. Lord, please give us eyes to see you. The Truth would be chosen to die over the insurrectionist, Barabbas. The Truth would carry His bloody body and cross to the site of the crucifixion amongst thieves. The Truth would give Himself to die on a cross. The Truth would indeed experience a full resurrection and this Truth will return soon. Come soon, Jesus.

When you tell the truth, people who resist it will ask, “who do you think YOU are?” They might respond, “what IS the truth anyway?” Credibility is one of the first things that is attacked when you tell hard truths. Mockery comes along with attempts to silence on ignore truthful voices. The Pilates of this world who find truth inconvenient and threatening to their leadership and power seek to silence or co-opt truth-tellers. But the real Jesus, the King of Truth cannot be co-opted for our political or personal agendas. He tells us who we really are. We don’t tell him who he is.

As we wait for Jesus and reflect on this Advent season, let us wait truthfully.

Truthful about our need for a savior.

Truthful about our sins while repenting of particular sins particularly.

Truthful about the groans of this world.

Truthful about the privileges that we receive at the expense of our neighbors.

Truthful about the hope we have in the King of Truth.

 

Prayer

Lord, you said everyone on the side of truth listens to you. Help us to hear your Truth in your Word. Help us to see your truth in corporate worship. Help us to seek your truth in our prayers. Help us to extend your truth in our relationships with friends, family and foes. We live in a land of lies and when we deny our own sin, we lie to you and ourselves. Make us repentant people while we wait for the fullness of your purifying Truth. Amen

Discussion Questions

  1. What lies do I tell myself about You, Jesus, in order to avoid repenting?
  2. What stops me from sharing the truth in love?
  3. In what ways do I attempt to co-opt your name for the sake of my agenda-personal, professional and political?

Songs of Meditation

‘Order My Steps” by Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

“Lies” by EnVogue

Day 20 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 20-Waiting with the People of God (even when they get on your nerves) | Christina Edmondson


We are almost at the end of this devotional journey. I pray you have been blessed and challenged. Most importantly, my prayer is that in all of this, we point to Christ more than any problem, trend or even some legitimately good thing. Together, three Black women set out to share our reflections this Advent season. Vulnerably, we opted to share our impromptu thoughts, songs of meditation, prayers and Bible study insights with you, the reader.

We did this together. Togetherness and community are deep and sustaining values in the life of the Believer. As we reflect on this Advent season, we encourage you to wait for the Second Advent in community.

Every culture has its strengths and weaknesses. More specifically, every culture experiences the aftershocks of sin and yet still retains the benefits of bearing the image of God. Creativity, scholarship, and ingenuity are abundant from the East to the West despite our tendencies to sinfully create social stratification. God’s common grace is present in all the world even while we might not discern evidence of His saving grace. 

Western culture, at it's worst, would have us to believe that individualization and autonomy are the highest ideals for humanity. “See, I pulled myself up my bootstraps.” “I did it MY way.” Shockingly, even those who claim a “biblical worldview” and reliance on a “grace-alone salvation” often sound no different than those who hold to a socio-psychological and political self-actualization mantra. How can one hold to a belief in the divine creation story while simultaneously holding to Social Darwinism in their politics, ethics and theology? Even those without spiritual sight can see this hypocrisy and self-elevating/protecting ideology set on maintaining personal dominance under the false pretenses of “Christian values.”

There are no “Christian values” that do not look like what Christ values as evidenced by His Word and life. Where are the values of self-sacrifice, personal piety, obedience, deep hospitality, belonging, integrity and restorative justice? Is it clear that we value the corporate covenant community that Christ died to bring together and make holy? I am referring to the community that we submit our gifts to for the building of its members. The community that washes us with the Word so that we might embrace true religion (James 1:27). This community is the church.

Women, there is no-Christianity at large. We are a part of the body of Christ and we tangibly express this blessed gift through membership in local bodies known as “churches.” If there are believers around the globe risking life and limb for gathering in the underground church, you, un-persecuted Christian in America, better find yourself a local church or help plant one.

I get it. The small “c” church in America looks pretty bleak at times and it's not the “Media’s” fault. Nope, our long history of avoiding church discipline, correcting “so-called personal sins” and systemic ones,  have left devastating and inter-generational effects for the whole society. In other words, the church bears guilt for how its inability to repent harms its members and our unbelieving neighbors. This is why we must commit to openly, consistently and publicly repenting as Believers. By the way, all sin is communal, systemic and against God. It is such a big deal that God came as baby and died as a man on the cross. 

When the doctrine of sin meets hyper-individuality we get a truncated theology causing an avoidance of systemic repentance. People end up wounded and jaded. Wounds, scar tissue, and the fear of being wounded can be so great that we become blind from seeing our own spiritual deficiency and sinfulness. It is a great temptation to become so fixated on the ways that we have been sinned against that we forget our own desperate need for forgiveness. Jesus is born among a socially oppressed people and yet he is coming to save them from ALL sin. Their sin and the sins done against them. Sanctification is a process and we are not immediately sinless no more than we are now released from the suffering of being sinned against. Yet, Jesus is with us and will be fully with us soon as we are glorified and His justice that is swift, deep and encompassing reigns forever. It is a complete Gospel with a true salvation that includes transformation, grace and justice. All that has been done wrong will be made right and on this side of Glory when we pursue restorative justice even in our broken ways we are prefiguring the righteous King that will perfectly make all things new. However, this King’s blood speaks for us now and has covered our sins. This makes us both humble and bold as we pursue justice. Humble enough to know that we still need each other. Bold enough to tell the truth to each other when we are together.

Humble and Bold. Together.

To maintain what seems like an earthly paradox, we must stay in community which includes the local church and the extended fellowship of believers representing diverse traditions and cultures. Distance lends to caricatures and dehumanization. Distance draws away empathy and creates echo-chambers of self-righteousness.  Distance feeds polarization and creates a space between us so large it seems impossible to unite. But, community is still required of us while we wait which is why grace-extending church discipline, cross-cultural hospitality, tangible joy, deep lament all birthed from piercing Truth must be pillars of our churches.

Many of us would say that we need God yet we deny God’s appointed means of extending grace through liturgy, sacraments, scripture and communal accountability. Are you sure that you can claim that you need and love God but consider optional the gathering among the people He died to redeem? There is a seat next to a waiting sister. Would you join her? Waiting is always better with good company.

Hebrews 10:25

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

 

Reflection Questions

  1. How much do I value the community of the Saints, locally and globally?
  2. What am I willing to sacrifice for the pursuit of both truth and unity in the church?
  3. Have I prayed to be healed of “church hurt?” Do I want to be healed?
  4. Consider the ways that you value or under-value the local church?  

 

Songs of Meditation and Praise

“Yes” by Shekinah Glory

“Alabaster Box” by CeCe Winans

“Lowly” by CeCe Winans

Day 19 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 19: Waiting with Wisdom | Christina Edmondson

 

I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield

Down by the riverside

Down by the riverside

Down by the riverside

I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield

Down by the riverside

I'm gonna study, study, war no more

I ain't gonna study war no more

Ain't gonna study war no more

 

If you have ever taken an Introduction to Psychology Course you might recall the marshmallow study. Conducted in the 1960’s by some Stanford University professors, the study sought to examine the factors that cause some children to immediately take the offered single marshmallow or agree to wait for the time-delayed two marshmallows. Subsequently, all kinds of versions of these tests were executed including longitudinal studies looking to see if the ability to self-soothe the impulse of taking the first presented reward would produce higher functioning adults.

However, the truth is all studies are subject to cultural assumptions and biases. So it is not surprising that the study missed some of the factors outside of impulse control and character that would make a child prefer the guaranteed now reward to the unseen future reward. In other words, delayed gratification may not be an adaptive response in a cruel and uncertain environment where tomorrow’s meal or safety is not guaranteed. To the extent that a child (or an adult for the matter) feels that the promised unseen “two marshmallows” will arrive, they are likely to delay instant gratification for the future greater treat.  Finally, another factor that impacted the ability to “delay gratification” was the age of the child. Older children were more likely to pass on the first option and wait for the two marshmallow treat.

We can look back and ask ourselves is this really a test about delayed gratification and self-control or rather a test of confidence in the future to come? Maybe, it is both?

Seems like those of us who are waiting on the soon returning King might be able to relate this study. First, confidence and trust in the giver of the reward including our witness to His faithfulness grows our ability to wait on future promises. Second, Christian maturity allows us to forgo the award of now for the greater award to come. Our maturity grows as we reverence the Lord and obey His word. Wisdom then is sown into us and reaps a harvest of greater patience and trust in the greater reward to come, Jesus Christ.

Here is a question for us to consider. Are you waiting with wisdom for the returning King? To answer this, let’s briefly reflect on two passages that speak to wisdom.

 

Proverbs 4:6

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.

 

James 3:13-17

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

 

First, the Proverbs passage uses anthropomorphic language to describe wisdom. Having spent the last couple of days reflecting on God’s mercy to Mary, I am struck by just how much wisdom sounds like a mother. It reminds me of the beginning of Proverbs 31 (the part people usually skip). Reflect on the words of King Lemuel’s wise mother.  She provides wisdom designed to protect him from risky choices (“stop all that drinking unless you forget you are King and deprive the oppressed of their rights!). She has plenty to say about his relationships and the community he will serve. Momma is clear with her son that he must prioritize the poor, destitute and voiceless. Finally, she schools him on qualities of a “good women.” Likely, somebody like her.  

The truth is we all don’t have wise mothers and some of us are moms who don’t always feel very wise. However, the failings of our earthly parents only serve as a striking contrast to the excellency of our greater parent, God the father. God is infinitely wise and so gracious that we have the Word of wisdom with us. In scripture, God lifts up wisdom like that of a beloved mother’s teachings to protect us, shape us, and even cause us to bless those who we will serve.

We need God’s wisdom while we wait, Sisters. We need the sure Word of God to help us to resist the lesser things and rewards while we wait.

Secondly, in the New Testament, we find James asking a necessary question. This is a question that will help us to assess to the extent we are wisely waiting on the King. James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you?”

While we might be inclined to answer hastily and say, I am brother James.  We might want to wait to hear the full description of wisdom.

First, James contrasts two types of wisdom. One, is “earthly, unspiritual and demonic” the other is “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”  While we wait we are compelled to model a wisdom marked with truthfulness. The scripture says that wisdom starts there with what is pure. This is important because often truth-tellers are asked to stop saying the truth and simply appear pleasant. But, pleasantries without truthfulness is deception. With that being said, truthfulness without all the other following characteristics lacks love of neighbor and obedience to God. True wisdom seeks authentic unity with purifying truth. It leans into reason with ears open. This wisdom is obvious, orthodoxy (right thinking) and orthopraxy (right living) walk hand in hand. Finally, wisdom is not two-faced but rather authentic and committed to “treating everybody right.”

All of these qualities highlight what James refers to as “the meekness of wisdom.” Remember the meek are from weak but rather they are restrained. The meek hold power and insight that stands at attention ready when the time is right to come forth. In other words, the meek can say I will pass on what looks like accessible pleasure, reward, or even a verbal rebuttal for the greater and ever-satisfying joy to come. God is requiring that we demonstrate the meekness of wisdom because He does. Jesus embodies this very ideal every time we see Him restraining the fullness of His glory, brilliance and power to draw near to us with the witness of His sacrifice, humility and undying love. The meek servant is returning as the victorious King.

After considering these passages, we can communally acknowledge that we fall woefully short of this level of wisdom. I am left thanking God for the sufficiency of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. I am left feeling grateful that Christ speaks for me even now. However, the Holy Spirit continues the work of sanctification by leading us to love what God loves, hating our own sins and seeking after more of God’s wisdom.

Ya’ll it is hard to pass on what seems like the sure thing at the moment. Life is hard. Self-control seems difficult to exercise and wisdom is lacking in a world of lies. Some days you get bad news. Heck, some years you get bad news. It takes deep confidence in the promises of God and not just will-power or behavior modification to wait wisely and pass on what the world says is good, wise and ready for what God promises in the end.  The wise woman knows that God’s promises and blessed return is truly worth the wait.

 

Reflection Questions

  1. What type of wisdom impresses me?
  2. How much do I trust the promises of God and I am willing to wait on the greater reward?
  3. Who are and were the wise women in my life? Thank God for their wisdom and if possible thank them for following in the ways of King Lemuel’s mother.

 

Song of Praise

“Lord Prepare Me” by West Angeles COGIC

Day 18 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 18-Waiting for a Prince while waiting for the King? | Christina Edmondson

Full confession, I am one of “those women” and you can keep your judgement in your pocket.

I squealed at the news of Meghan Merkle’s engagement to Prince Harry and nearly lost my whole mind viewing pictures of Queen Serena Williams at her fairytale-esqe wedding.  2017 has been a heck of a year and along with prayer, chocolate and humor, one-dimensional romances served as a great distraction. So, I have watched a movie or two about some dashing prince marrying a smart/sensible women. She has “the career”, humor and authenticity which is why when she appears in the rose garden or at the top of the steps entering the grand ball everything stops to honor her flawless entrance.  Do you remember Prince Hakeem going to Queens, NY to find his future queen, the lovely Lisa? It looks like all is lost when Hakeem is snatched up to return back to marry a bride of his father’s choosing but surprise ending…there is Lisa in her blush pink tulle dress to save the day.

While this is not the story for all women or maybe even most, I imagine that there are some who find themselves either waiting for a “prince” or grieving the loss of one. “Single and saved” black women can find themselves bombarded with accurate and inaccurate reports of the availability of marriageable men, for example.  It is likely we know someone grieving the idea of marriage, family, or whatever is in their storybook…good stuff that’s not always guaranteed. Good stuff that might become even more out of reach because of personal, social and systemic sins.

I want to humbly offer a couple of lessons I am learning from a prince-less widow awaiting the true King found in scripture.

 

Luke 2:27-38

When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,  you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

 

Luke chapter 2 introduces us to two older saints at the temple. We hear the words of Simeon, a “righteous and devout” man who encounters the young Jesus. Simeon is beside himself and declares the far reaching cross-cultural implications of Jesus’ reign. Jesus will be a light to the Gentiles and glory to his people, Israel. Simeon prophesies the pain Mary would suffer at the cross.  Finally, he is so struck by this encounter that he basically says, “God, you can come get me now!”

Now, contrast this with Anna’s experience. The text shortly follows Simeon’s interaction with Jesus’ family with details regarding the life of the prophet. One would think that Luke would highlight the words of the prophet and the life of the devout man but that’s not what happens here in his account. We see the reverse of this and that draws us in. It is the life of Anna and not just her words that point to Christ.

Anna has lived most of her life as a widow. Several decades. After seven years of marriage, her husband died.

Anna spends her days about her Father’s business in a way that most of us cannot imagine. Well, I will just speak for myself. I hate fasting and there are seasons of my life where I struggle to pray. Real talk. Yet, Anna cultivates a life so entrenched with worship that Jesus shows up and meets her at the temple.

Jesus will meet us in our worship and give us a true cause to speak. Anna uses her words to point outside of herself to a people needing redemption. The earnest Simeon believes he is done his journey but after seeing Jesus, Anna starts a new one. Anna sees a people needing redemption as greater than her needing a new life, a prince or a ticket out of here. She has been fasting and praying for decades and doesn’t ask for a thing when Jesus actually shows up! Maybe, it’s because whether we know it or not Jesus himself is the answer to all of our prayers.

Seeing Jesus gives Anna her new marching orders and while she might live in a world like us with little value for old widowed women this prophet has something to declare. Anna’s words are of the hope about the King of redemption.

During advent we cultivate a spirit of holy expectation. As we move towards the remembrance of Christ incarnation and birth we become hopeful even in suffering unwanted singleness, grief or uncertainty. This King who meets us now in worship is coming again. In the meantime, like Anna, let’s become reinvigorated when he shows up at the temple. Sisters, there is nothing wrong with wanting good things including a prince, a promotion or a clear path.

But, let’s be real.

Only the King can bring justice to systemic sin. Only the King can deliver and cleanse us from our sins. Only the King can produce the true happily ever after.

 

Today’s Reflection Questions

  1. How do I communicate to my good desires that I value the coming King even more?
  2. What is the worshipful work that the Lord would have me to do while I wait for earthly good things and the great King?
  3. How can I encourage and serve my sisters who are experiencing days, years and decades of waiting for good things?

 

Prayer

Thank you Jesus for meeting bereaved women at the temple, ashamed women at the well and dismissed women at the tomb. Ultimately, you continue to meet women dead in sin and bring them to new life. You show up in our worship and provide us with purpose. Today, I am mindful and grateful for women like dear my mother in law, a worshipping widow. By your Spirit you have strengthened her song and while she misses her prince you point her to the most worthy King. This makes her an even more excellent prophetic voice and witness to your redemptive work. I am grateful for the witness of my saved, single and celibate sisters who demonstrate obedience to your commands and delight in you. Help all of us encourage the women in our lives who find themselves longing for lost or unfulfilled good things. Forgive us and sustain us when we falter. May we all delight in the answered prayer that you are enough while we wait. Amen

 

Songs of Mediation and Praise

“They that wait on the Lord” by The Georgia Mass Choir

“They that wait upon the Lord” by Fred Hammond and John P Kee

Day 17 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 17: #Jesustoo for #Metoo | Christina Edmondson

He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The
LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD."
-Job 1:21

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid
him in a manger
, because there was no place for them in the inn. -Luke 2:7

 

On Day 10 of the Truth’s Table Advent Devotional, Ekemini reminded us of the solidaric infancy of Christ. That the Creator would condescend to become like one of the created is hard to grasp. We, who too often long to be our own ruler, struggle to see how servanthood, meekness, and lowliness is the way to exaltation. If we are in charge, we think we can define right and wrong for ourselves and insure that we are never hurt.  Foolishly, we think to be our own god is to be indestructible but the true and guiltless Savior submitted His body to destruction for us. We attempt to cover ourselves with an armor so impenetrable that grace struggles to enter in and extend to others. Counter-intuitive is way of the babe in the manger and the savior at the cross. Christ, fully human, chose to enter this world like us: naked, bloody through the post-fall pains of childbirth and in need of care. The baby Jesus’ small naked body was quickly covered by a mother who He would cover with His own righteousness. What a powerful portrait of mercy! He chose to begin the journey knowing in His fully divine self how this would end at the cross. He chose this path to make sinners His siblings and co-heirs.

There is something about nakedness, not simply the nudity of our birthday suit, that produces shame and fear. At Eden, when sin entered the world nudity became nakedness and our impulse was to hide, deny, victimize to avoid being a victim and create our own systems to work our way back to God’s grace.

Jesus entered this world as a naked baby boy but he would depart in death a naked, exposed and bloody man upon a tree. Men were often stripped bare during crucifixion to intensify the public shaming. For spectators and soldiers to look upon the frontal nakedness of the crucified resulted in an additional layer of humiliation. Westerners struggle to sit with and appreciate the collective shame of that moment. Jesus’ clothes were distributed like trophies and his lifeless body, like his newborn body, was covered by a caring woman in the end.   

Survivors of sexual abuse, harassment and assault persist through moments of shame employing a host of coping skills from denial to confrontation. 2017’s #MeToo campaign is a reminder of the long history of post-fall abuse endured by women. Men manifest the fruit of the curse by seeking to rule over women and the Lamechs of this world gain positions, power and resources that fuel the legacy of victimization.

Christ submitted His nakedness to the world so that you might wear a robe of righteousness, Blessed one. At birth, he enters with great vulnerability and at the cross he bears the weight of sin and shame. This shame includes the reeling effects of abuse. While you and I might be tempted like some of the disciples to run and look away from the crucifixion, some women did stay.

 

So, sisters, don’t look away…

Jesus knows what it means to have his clothes ripped from his body.

Jesus knows what it means to have his naked, bruised and vulnerable body on display. Jesus knows what it means to have folks run from and ignore His suffering at the Cross.

Jesus knows what it means to have people deny completely His experience.

Jesus knows what it means to die a cruel death and to rely on the help of others to remove his exposed lifeless body.

Jesus knows more than we dare to imagine. Jesus knows all about you and His love endures.

Theologically-speaking, so much happens at both the birth of Christ and at the cross. However, we often skip over how God works victory for the #MeToo believer in these things. Jesus redeems every tear and bit of shame at the cross. God even expresses the multi-faceted reversal of the curse by using women mightily in His redemptive plan and bestowing them with the honor of caregiving for Jesus from the manger to the tomb.  Woman goes from the deceived Eve in the garden to the first witness of the resurrected Christ. Grace is provocative and redemption is shocking!

In my mind and heart, I hold dozens of stories of sexual abuse in my head as recounted by the children, women and men that I served in counseling. It is an honor to hear someone’s story of suffering and Jesus again choses to allow us to see Him in his humiliation through the details of scripture. Would you tell this story? Christ the Victor, who within His divinity is impassable, fully puts on humanity to live and die for His people. The soon returning King bears shame at the cross and will return with perfect justice on His mind. Remember, #Jesustoo has even conquered #MeToo.  

What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear

And what a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit

Oh, what needless pain we bear

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged

Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful?

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness

Take it to the Lord in prayer

 

Prayer

Lord, you really do know. There is no friend like you. You were born sinless but with a burden that went all the way to the cross to bear sins, shame and grief. Help us to trust you with our #MeToo stories and our next steps towards earthly justice. I will not turn away from all that you endured at the cross. I will not deny that you bore my sin and shame. Help us to search our own hearts for the ways that we have victimized others directly, through disbelief and the enablement of abusers. Put repentance in our hearts, pockets, words and hands. Put healing in our souls, bodies, memories and relationships. Forgive us, heal us and please come quickly. Amen

 

Song of Meditation

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, Aretha Franklin

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. Is the cross the standard that I use to measure God’s love for me or the painful circumstances of my life?
  2. What prevents me from sharing my “MeToo stories with Jesus?
  3. What does it mean that Jesus takes away my shame at the cross?

 

Day 16 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 16: Rejoicing While We Wait | Christina Edmondson

 

I need you, you need me

We're all a part of God's body

Stand with me, agree with me

We're all a part of God's body

-Hezekiah Walker, I Need You to Survive

 

Luke 1:39-45

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’”

Yesterday’s devotional focused on Mary’s moving words of praise. Interestingly, those words follow the encouraging words of Elizabeth noted above. Upon hearing the Good News, Mary makes haste to find her dear cousin, a spiritual mother of sorts that likewise finds herself carrying an expected child of purpose, the future John the Baptist. As Mary spoke, Elizabeth’s body and baby reacted. The Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth and as is the pattern in scripture subsequent prophesying and proclamation ensue. The Holy Spirit in us and through us does the mighty work of pointing to Jesus Christ, the incomparable King. Elizabeth calls Mary “Blessed!” Remember, this is a name Mary will hold for all generations and we who fear the Lord now hold as well. Elizabeth responds to the gift of Christ coming near here through Mary by stating, “But, why am I so favored?” She can hardly believe this grace. Elizabeth has encountered a saving compassion that came right to her door and captured her very body with wonder and power.

In my mind’s eye, I can imagine this celebration of rejoicing. It harkens back to the praises of Miriam leading the women in worship to the Lord. Can you see it? Laughter, tears, hugs and expressions of encouragement and love because of God’s sweet and sure promises. As we wait, sisters, here is a bit of advice, be like Mary. Get yourself some “rejoicing cousins”, a ban of Elizabeths who will remind you and I that the promises of the Lord are “yes and Amen.” An Elizabeth that will dance with you and hope with you. Look, this is not the same as pie in the sky or Polyannna theology that sounds sweet but does not sustain. Elizabeths can remind you of what God has done for them, making the barren fruitful. In Elizabeth’s life we see God shutting the mouths of doubting men and filling believing women with His Spirit.

Sisters, the King is coming and we are so favored that He is coming for us! This truth rounds out our lament with a foundation of hope. Jesus’ promises are to be believed, recited, shared and song. These promises will feed us until we are satisfied for an eternity with the King. Ride on King Jesus!

So, while we wait for the King, visit your “rejoicing cousins” and together let’s take turns reminding each other of the promise-keeping and fulfilling Christ.

 

Prayer:

Soon coming King, thank you for your Church. Lord, we do not wait for your return alone! You have fashioned yourself a people. We are a people that are interconnected and interdependent. Help us Lord to treat each other well. Heal us from the wounds from within our own faith community. Help us to rejoice with each other, weep with each other and remind each other of your glorious promises. Amen

 

Songs of Praise and Meditation:

“Ride on, King Jesus”, composed by Moses Hogan  

“I Need you to Survive”, Hezekiah Walker

 

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Are you known as a promise-proclaimer?
  2. Who are the women in your life that remind you of the promise-keeping King?
  3. Do you struggle to rejoice with your sister(s) when God’s promises are fulfilled in their life? If yes, are you ready to repent and repair?  

 

Day 15 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 15: Call Me Blessed | Christina Edmondson

 

“They all spoke kindly of my dead mother, who had been a slave merely in name, but in nature was noble and womanly.”

-Harriet Jacobs

 

Luke 1:46-55

 

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

47    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

  For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his name.

50 And his mercy is for those who fear him

from generation to generation.

51 He has shown strength with his arm;

he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones

and exalted those of humble estate;

53 he has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

54 He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,

55 as he spoke to our fathers,

to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

 

Mary renders a stirring praise in verses 46-55. You can almost hear tambourines and a crescendo of “Amens” as her testimonial and prophetic words build with richness, truthfulness and grace. Here, she contrasts the reality of her “humble estate” with the great honor of what God has done for her and through her. She is rightly shocked by this amazing grace.

 

As a young oppressed woman, Mary lifts up God’s tremendous work of restorative justice as the seminal expression of His enduring mercy and strength. Can you hear the delight and joy in her words, “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones?” Mary and women like her, know what happens when the earth’s “mighty” go unchecked and undisciplined. Women and their children are often the first victims of cruel kings, greedy CEOs, and loveless leaders. Ironically, however, at the end she points outside of herself because salvation is bigger than just “me and mine” and her prayer concludes by lifting up the entire people of God, “He has helped His servant, Israel.”

 

This is her jubilant and sobering reaction to the fulfillment of God’s promises to her--a sinner--that is sinned against by her society and to those that would be His people. There are so many nuggets of grace in this passage but as we move through the Advent season in the midst of a name-calling world, verse 48 offers a unique encouragement to us, dear sisters.

 

Have you ever been called out of your name? Had people assume things about you or tarnish your reputation? Mispronounce or forget your name? Have your own sins and the sins committed against you led to the discrediting of your name?

 

This is painful and demeaning.

 

Imagine this Gospel truth: because Christ came, our new and eternal names have honor. We are now named Blessed.

 

Locker room talk seeks to discredit and dehumanize women.

Low self-esteem cause us to distort our own God-given identities and value.

Catcallers harassing words leave us feeling exposed and on display.

Co-workers and even church members may mispronounce, deny credit to or minimize our names.

 

But, let Mary’s praise remind us that we have new names and new reputations. Mary’s name is associated with honor from now through eternity and we who carry Christ within us bear this same unearned gift. Remember, this unbelievable mercy is for “those who fear Him.” Like Mary,  our foremother in the faith, those of us who trust in Christ alone are given the name Blessed for today and all of eternity. Can you ponder what this means for enslaved African believers who were denied their names and reputations?

 

The world said "property" but Christ speaks louder and forever more saying:

 

Co-heir with Christ

Child of the King

Redeemed one

Blessed

 

 

 

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, your name is great and mighty. Your name is a saving strong tower. You have given me a new name…Redeemed One, Servant of the Most High, Grace Case, Lover of Neighbor, Friend to the Forgotten, and Woman of Honor. My name is Blessed not because of my works but because of yours. You have gifted me with a new name purchased by your blood. Righteous and soon returning King, you will hush the mouths of street, corporate, and political harassers. Forgive me for the particular ways that I dishonor this new name. May you make my life to match the name you have given me and may your name be a shelter and comforter for all generations.

Amen

 

 

Daily Reflection Questions:

1. Is God's saving grace still amazing to me?

2. How do I demonstrate hope in a Savior that will heal me from own sins and the sins done to me?

3. What names matter most to me? The one's given by this world for praise or degradation or the names won for me by Christ?

4. In what ways am I seeking to live faithfully with the name Christian?

 

 

Song of Meditation and Praise

LaShun Pace I Know I Have Been Changed 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzMKZcoFTrM

Day 14 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 14: Jesus Coming | Ekemini Uwan

 

I may be just a foolish dreamer
But I don't care
'Cause I know my happiness is waiting out there somewhere
I'm searching for that silver lining
Horizons that I've never seen
Oh I'd like to take just a moment and dream my dream
Ohhh Dream my dream

 - Commodores

 

“Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). How is your eyesight? Has cynicism clouded your vision? Have delays of the certain things you hope for eclipsed your view of the unseen? Fighting for joy and hope while waiting in faith for God to fulfill His promises of justice and other blessings is difficult. Undoubtedly, the longer the delay, the more hopelessness lurks around the corner, seeking to vanquish the mustard of seed of faith we so desperately cling to.

 

Given the ubiquity of racial oppression, anti-blackness, and injustices committed against our people in the Diaspora, it seems like the future glory promised in the book of Revelation will never be ours. There is a real and present temptation to lose heart and faith in Christ by turning to idols and other gods, thereby forsaking the faith.

 

Read: Jeremiah 2:12-13

 

In this portion of Scripture, the Spirit of Christ, through the prophet Jeremiah, is calling the heavens as a witness against Israel for their apostasy. Living water is a metaphor for the eternal life and spiritual sustenance that God alone can provide, while the broken cisterns represent the idols people chase after. Though the word “thirsty” is not explicitly mentioned in the passage, it is alluded to implicitly; the word connotes a craving, or a strong desire. Through Jeremiah’s words we see a people—not unlike ourselves—ruled by their lustful craving for other gods and their desire to be god, as evidenced by their actions. Their unholy thirst led them to make broken cisterns in a futile effort to satisfy their thirst apart from the true and Living God.

 

When we recall the circumstances of Christ’s Advent, God’s miraculous work in the lives of Elizabeth and Mary ought to hearten us as we await His soon return. Life is hard and the road to glory is paved with suffering, but the grace of God will always outrun the suffering we experience in the present. Sistas, fight with everything that is within you to keep standing firm in the faith. Jesus is our great High Priest, and He empathizes with our sufferings (Heb. 4:15). Keep your eyes on Him as you walk the path He set before you. Jesus comin’.

 

Prayer:

Father, we need your grace to keep us on the narrow path that leads to life. The suffering and temptations we face in this life are many and great. You know our frame and you remember that we are dust. We have a hard time seeing beyond what is in front of us. Give us the eyes of faith that see clearly the certain things that are unseen. Be glorified in our lives as we await Christ’s return. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Songs:

Zoom, Commodores

Jesus Children of America, Robert Glasper

Jesus Coming, Rapsody

 Have Faith in Me, Kim Burrell

Day 13 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 13: Hold On, Be Strong | Ekemini Uwan

 

“Dear God it's me transmittin' from
This tiny place I live in Harlem
Oh Heaven we have a problem
'Cause we've lost all correspondence
And there's no more prophets
They've all been replaced with politics
And they have your people hostage
That's why I'm sending you this postage.”

Kelis

 

Perhaps one of the hardest realities we have to confront as believers is God’s goodness in the face of the suffering and evil that are part and parcel of living in this fallen world. Our hearts were rent as we watched Hurricane Irma wipe out the island of Barbuda, and Hurricane Maria ravage Puerto Rico. Our souls turned within us as we witnessed the mudslides in Sierra Leone claim the lives of over six hundred Africans. Whole families were killedin the deluge of mud.Tears of sorrow, anger, and fear well up in our eyes as we learnthat Black women are “243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.”

 

Climate change, environmental racism, white supremacy, capitalism, racial inequity, unconscious bias, structural racism via medical apartheid are just a few of the factors that cause the devastations. While the above is a non-exhaustive list of significant factors that continue to ensnare the Diaspora to this present day, they are only symptoms of an insidious problem—sin. I am not using sin as a trite platitude to flatten the interlocking oppression we face. For to say everything is sin is to say nothing at the same time. However, I am using sin in its most biblical sense, full of transcendent and cosmic implications. Sin is the genesis of the symptomatic and quotidian problems Black people experience. Specifically, profits are put before people. Politicians silence prophets. The wealth of the wicked is acquired at the cost of the poor’s well-being and livelihood.

 

How do we make sense of this?

 

Read: Genesis 3, Colossians 1:13-14, Romans 14:17

 

Just as Adam’s sin ushered in the presentevil age (Gen 3:14-15), with sin, death, and misery, Christ’s first coming brought forth the cosmological antithesis—the new age—with its attendant blessings of righteousness, joy, and peace (Rom. 14:17). Christ’s Advent marks the arrival of the kingdom of God, which is connected with the idea of a future inheritance. However, the kingdom of God is notonly future—it is also present. Although the new age has broken in, we are living in the overlap of the ages, which is the time between Christ’s First Advent and His Second Advent. During this time period, and by virtue of our union with Christ, our lives will be marked by suffering.

 

Even though suffering is a reality for us all, we must resist the urge to overemphasize suffering to the exclusion of the in-breaking of the new age with its blessings of righteousness, peace, joy, justice, and power—for to do so leads to fatalism. Conversely, we must not overemphasize the new age to the exclusion of the presentevil age, because this only leads to triumphalism—an unrealistic expectation that the future blessings reserved for Christ’s return ought to be fully manifested in this age. While it is true that we are a people marked by suffering, ultimately we are characterized by hope, and this hope is not an abstract concept. This hope is a person—the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

It’s our hope in Him that moves us to bring the blessings of the new age to bear in the lives of our people and all the oppressed through our actions. Believers must learn to be comfortable living in the tension between the two ages. We hold onto a sober expectation, which means that we expect progress and advocate for it because we live in the new age, while recognizing that change may come slowly and will not come easily due to the opposing forces of sin, death, and misery in the presentevil age.

 

Hold on, be strong, sistas!

 

Prayer:

Father, living between the overlapping of the ages is so hard on us. We get weary and overwhelmed by the suffering we see in the world and experience in our own lives. But we know that you sent Jesus to pay the price for our salvation, so that we are delivered from the power of sin. We pray for the comfort of those who are suffering and for justice to reign in the lives of those who have been wronged. Hasten the return of Jesus Christ, so that sin, death, and misery are no more.  We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Songs:

Mr. U.F.O. Man, Kelis

I Love The Lord, Whitney Houston

Liberation, Outkast

Someday We'll All Be Free, Donny Hathaway

Harvest For The World, The Isley Brothers

Day 12 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 12: Broken Backs | Ekemini Uwan

 

“What would become of you then?
What if, poof, every black female in the world
Disappeared?
Your man-child left unattended
Lost without no one behind the steering wheel
Tell me, hmm
C'mon,how would that make you feel?”

Jill Scott

 

Tired and tried. Forgotten and forsaken. Despised and denigrated. Used and abused. In the famous words of our ancestor Fannie Lou Hamer, “I’m [we’re] sick and tired of being sick and tired.”We are expected to saw, sand, and assemble the table, yet we are barred from taking a seat at the very table we built. When we attempt to take our rightful place, we are met with bemusement and incredulity from those who harbor nothing but contempt for us, as if we are absurd for seeking to occupy the space we created. After witnessing Doug Jones barely eke out a win over the alleged pedophile, racist Roy Moore, white liberals and their conservative cousins exclaim, “We dodged a bullet!” “Black women saved us.” But when a bullet is dislodged from the chamber, it must penetrate or graze something or someone. 

 

The questions are: who is taking the hit? Who is grazed by the bullet?

 

Black women.

 

What Black women did in Alabama this week is what we have always done. Angela Davis taught us saying, “Black women have had to develop a larger vision of our society than perhaps any other group. They have had to understand white men, white women, and Black men. And they have had to understand themselves. When black women win victories, it is a boost for virtually every segment of society.” Black women are not America’s saviors. We are not your magical negroes. To deify us is to dehumanize us.To exalt us beyond our human station is to strip us of our agency. No one but the God who created us owns us and only He is worthy of exaltation.

Read:Matthew 11:28-30

At this time, the religious leaders were oppressing people by requiring them to do more than the Old Testament law required.They held others to standards that they themselves would not uphold. So it is for us—Black women—in America, for we are oppressed with heavy burdens. Brother Malcolm said, “The most disrespected woman in America, is the black woman. The most un-protected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the black woman.” While this is our reality, insult to injury is added when Black women are expected to put the entire country on their back when they enter the voting booth.

We are not the mules of this world. Our backs are not bridges to liberation. The load has proven too heavy for us, but there is One who carries it. Hear the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, a balm for our weary souls: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Let us enter into this divine exchange. The only cost is our complete trust in the sufficiency of Christ. Faith is an invitation to rest in the Savior of the world. We can relinquish this burdensome title that the world perpetually places on us. The rest that we have in Christ now is a foretaste of the eternal rest we will experience upon His Second Advent. Sistas, come lay down the burdens you have carried. Rest awaits you.

 

Recommended Reading: Women, Race, & Class by Angela Y. Davis

 

 

Songs:

 

God is Here, Karen Clark Sheard

How it Make You Feel, Jill Scott

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler), Marvin Gaye

Day 11 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 11: A Redemptive Intrusion | Ekemini Uwan

 

“I can't believe
That we're still livin'
Oh in this crazy crazy world
That I'm still livin'
With all the problems of the day
How can we go on?”

Erykah Badu

 

 

The post-Fall world is marked by sin, death, and misery. During Jesus’ time on earth, oppression was rampant, the rich were extorting money from the poor, religious leaders were looking out for themselves instead of people on the margins, and siblings were fighting over inheritances.

 

There is nothing new under the sun.

 

In our current context we see much of the same: politicians are passing laws to take away even the little that the poor have, religious leaders are hungry for political power and will stop at nothing to get it, this regime is ordering 59,000 Haitian immigrantsto return to Haiti within eighteen months, Africans from various countries within the continent are enslaved in the Libyan Slave Trade. Human beings who bear the very image of God are in chains, having their organs harvested, and are being burned alive.

 

We need a redemptive intrusion.

 

Read: Philippians 2:6-8

Now, when we hear the word “intrusion,” it usually carries the negative connotation of wrongfully or forcibly enteringwith the intent to take another person’s property. Not so with Jesus, for He came to empty Himself and give His life for our salvation. In Christ’s incarnation, His emptying is done by addition, not subtraction. This is kingdom math.While remaining the eternal and preexisting God, He added human nature to Himself. By addition, the Infinite became finite, the Eternal became temporal, the Creator became creature, the Invisible became visible, the Sustainer became dependent, the Almighty became weak, and the Divine became human.

 

In Jesus Christ, the God-man, we observe the embodiment of the tension we feel as those who live on the other side of the cross—this is Christ’s finish work. He came and inaugurated His kingdom, but we still grapple with the sin and brokenness in this world and within ourselves. Yet we long for His second redemptive intrusion, when He will consummate His kingdom and eradicate sin and every form of oppression.

Father, when we think about the fact that sin was wreakinghavoc before and after Jesus’ incarnation, it’s easy for us to get discouraged. Sometimes we think that our waiting and hoping is in vain. We know that your kingdom has been inaugurated, but it often seems like the kingdom of darkness is advancing. Oh, but this we recall to our minds: for in this hope we were saved. Now, hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? (Rom. 8:24). At the moment we don’t see all things subject to Jesus (Heb. 2:8), but we believe that they are because your Word is true. Free our people from the wicked bonds of enslavement in Libya and beyond. Grant amnesty to the Haitian immigrants who are facing deportation. Great Liberator, give your liberation to our people and all who are oppressed. Amen.

 

Songs:

 

UMI Says, YasiinBey (Mos Def)

Drama, Erykah Badu

No Greater Love, Fred Hammond

Day 10 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 10: Solidaric Infancy | Ekemini Uwan

 

“And I thank you for choosing me
To come through unto life to be
A beautiful reflection of His grace
See I know that a gift so great
Is only one God could create
And I'm reminded every time I see your face.”

Lauryn Hill

 

King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Alpha and Omega, Lion and the Lamb, Wonderful Counselor, the Son of God, Immanuel, Second Person of the Trinity—these are only a few of the titles that describe our Lord Jesus Christ. All of that plus sinless humanity made up the constitution of Baby Jesus. In jest, people often say, “Thank you, Baby Jesus.” But have you ever stopped to consider why the Savior of the World came as an infant?

 

Undoubtedly, babies are the most vulnerable people in society. They are dependent upon their parents to carry, clothe, feed, clean, nurture and care for them in every way. Why would the God of the universe come to us in such a vulnerable package? Scripture answers saying, “…he had to be made like them in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17).

 

As I reflect on how infant Jesus came through His mother’s birth canal like the rest of humanity, I’m reminded of the unborn babies of Flint, Michigan who traveled the same course, but came into this world dead on arrival. Cause of death: greed at the hands of politicians who willfully contaminated the cities water supply with lead and other toxins out of concern for Flint’s bottomline, over against the lives of its residents. Leaving their mothers reeling after suffering miscarriages and holding their stillborn babies in their arms. Intractable sorrow has made a home in their hearts, evicting the unspeakable joy that once resided there.

 

How does Jesus’ infancy relate to the stillborn babies of Flint?

 

Read:Matthew 2:1-18

This passage makes it clear that Herod was intent on killing Baby Jesus. The threat was so imminent that an angel of the Lord went to Joseph in a dream to warning him to take Mary and Baby Jesus to Egypt and remain there until Herod’s death. Lamentably, the male children slaughteredin Bethlehem were the victims of state-sanctioned violence at the hands of Herod. From infancy, Jesus lived under the threat of death; and while it’s true that He came to earth to die for the sins of the world, Jesus said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my ownaccord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again...” (John 10:18).

 

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), which includes deliverance from personal sin and the tyrannical reign of sin that manifests itself in anti-black oppression, like white supremacy and the environmental racism that snatched the lives of the babies in Flint while in the womb. Jesus Christ was made like us in every respect, so that He would share in a solidaric bond with all of humanity, including the stillborn babies of Flint. The blood of these innocent ones cry out for vengeance from the One who judges righteously. The weight of the wait during this Advent season is unbearable in light of the injustices that abound, but the Judge of all the earth shall do right (Gen. 18:25).

 

Father,

We join our grief with the mothers of Flint who gave birth to stillborn babies and suffered miscarriages because the water supply that is suppose to sustain life brought forth death. O God! We lament the wickedness and the lovelessness that led to the Flint crisis in the first place. We pray that you would execute your justice now, in this presentevil age, and we pray for the strength of the organizers and activists on the ground who are working to make your justice a reality. Comfort those who are grieving the deaths of loved ones who died from this crisis and give the people of Flint access to clean water. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Songs:

Zion, Lauryn Hill

 

Sweet Little Jesus Boy, Mahalia Jackson

 

Dear God 2.0, The Roots

 

The Mystery of Iniquity, Lauryn Hill

Day 9 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

 Day 9: The Departed, Discarded Ones | Ekemini Uwan

 

“There is a woman in Somalia

Scraping for pearls on the roadside

There's a force stronger than nature

Keeps her will alive

This is how she's dying

She's dying to survive

Don't know what she's made of

I would like to be that brave.”

Sade

 

Advent means “arrival,” an “appearing” or “coming” into a place, and we have been reflecting on the glory of Christ’s first Advent, which began with His incarnation. We, children of God, join our eager anticipation along with all the saints worldwide who await theSecond Advent of King Jesus, when He will consummate His kingdom.

 

As we wait, the groans of our souls resonate with the groans of creation; together we yearn for redemption (Rom. 8:22, 23). Sorrowful yet always rejoicing. This is the disposition to which we have been called, sistas. The tension of the “already, not yet” is palpable for me during this Advent season.

 

As I reflect with joy about Christ’s Advent, I can’t help but to think about its inverse, the departed, discarded ones.Precious children of the Diaspora who won’t see this advent because their lives were cut off due to anti-Black oppression and state-sanctioned violence. Charleena Lyleswas a thirty-year old pregnant mother of four with her fifth child on the way. She called the police to report a burglary and was shot seven times in front of her children. A bullet ripped through the child in her womb. The police aborted Charleena’s unborn son and rendered her four surviving children motherless.

 

My soul cries out!

 

Twenty-six Nigerian girlsbetween the ages of 14-18 left their native land seeking asylum in Europethrough Libya. Young girls boarded those rubber dinghies with hopes and dreams of a better life stuffed in their invisible knapsacks—only to have their dreams dashed the moment they were wrangled into a sex trafficking ring. Although their fate was grim, the audacity of hope carried them as they traversed the trouble waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The journey proved too much for them as it had for so many before them, the waters engulfed them snuffing out their lives along with their dreams. Twenty-six lifeless, namelessBlack bodies of image-bearers, buried in a foreign land far away from home and no family members to claim them.

 

My soul cries out!

Who will weep for these Black Lives discarded like the refuse of the world?

I know the One who has wept over the deaths of these precious ones, Jesus Christ.

 

Read:John 11:32-36

There was a time when death did not loom over our heads, but the entrance of sin changed the course of human history (Gen. 3), and now we must face this last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). This is the world into which Jesus entered, to do away with sin and death, in order to bring it to its consummate end (Rev. 21:4).

 

He is moved in spirit and greatly troubled. This Scripture is not describing some fleeting emotion. Quite the contrary, Jesus is deeply sorrowful and angry at the evil of death.Jesus, full of sorrow and anger, was moved internally and physically. Compassion has legs, and it moves toward those who are suffering.  This is a beautiful picture of Christ’s divinity and humanity—His transcendence, and His immanence. He asked where they laid him, because He is God, and the only One who can raise Lazarus from the dead.

 

His humanity is overlaid upon the backdrop of His divinity, and its radiance is more glorious than a shooting star sweeping across the onyx sky. The One who had the power to keep Lazarus from the pangs of death is now crying in the wake of His friend’s departure and the suffering of those left behind. Now we await Christ’s Second Advent,when the dead will be raised, some to eternal life and others to judgment (John 5:25-29).

 

  He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8

 

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Come quickly!

 

Prayer: Father, things are not as they should be in this world. The rich oppress the poor. The powerful lord it over the powerless. Those who have sworn to protect and serve are quick to shed the blood of my people. God, as we look back at Christ’s Advent and look forward to His second arrival, give your justice to the widows and the orphans. Grant us a foretaste of justice as a sign of the peace and sinless life we will enjoy in the eschaton. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Songs:

The Place, Shekinah Glory

 

Telephone, Erykah Badu

 

Pearls, Sade

Day 8 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 8: Ain’t I A Woman? | Ekemini Uwan

 

“And since we all came from a woman

Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman

I wonder why we take from our women

Why we rape our women — do we hate our women?”

Tupac Shakur

 

Woman: the crown and glory of creation. Formed and fashion by the holy hands of the Triune God. Bearing the image of God,endowed with intrinsic dignity and worth. Created equal to man. Made a little lower than the angels. Owed the same esteem, value, and respect men are so freely given, and yet these are rarely given. Instead, the crown and glory of creation is trampled underfoot. Her body, which was formed by the hands of God, is now violated by a vagina grabbing predator-in-chief. Senators, Congressmen, media moguls, and entertainers sexually harass, grope, and rapewomen for sport. Rape culture has replaced kingdom culture. Desecrating the sacred bodies God called “good.”

 

But who is missing from the #metoo narrative?

Who are we not hearing from?

 

The matriarch of old, Dinah (Gen. 34), cries out #metooand so do her daughters. African women—my distantrelatives—stolen from their native land, owned, raped, and forced to breed children like chattel. Their descendants, Black women, who cry #metooare forgotten, forsaken, and despised. Effectivelysilenced due to racial and power dynamics at their jobs and when we muster up the courage to come forward, we are not believed.

 

Our souls exclaim, “Ain’t I A Woman?”

Mother Sojourner Truth taught us.

 

What’s more, young black girls have been crying #metoofor decades at the hands of R. Kelly, who claims to “step in the name of love,” though all the while he’s been steppin’ in the name of lust, power, and pedophilia. Stripping away the innocence of black girls while we turn a blind eye because “That’s my jam!”

 

What then shall we say to these things?

 

Read: Luke 1:26-38 & Luke 2:1-7

 

Mary wasn’t much older than the girls I made mention of above. She also lived in a post-Fall world where women were undervalued, treated like property, not seen as full image-bearers. Yet we see in Luke 1:26-38 that God sent angel Gabriel to Mary, an ordinary girl who found favor with the Lord (Luke 1:28). An ordinary girl upon whom the holy conception would take place (Luke 1:35), so that she might carry the Savior of the world. Even in the womb, Jesus validates, affirms, confirms, and restores the dignity of women. In His wisdom, the Thrice Holy God chose a woman to be the vessel that would carry, nurture, and care for the King of Kings.

 

Sistas, as with Mary, God’s favor rests upon you, and He is with you. I know this because He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for your sins and rise for your salvation. You are the crown of His creation, and God gave you a kinky crown of hair to confirm this reality. Your melanin and gap-tooth smile uniquely reflect the image of the creative power of the One True God. You deserve to be believed when you share your #metoo story. You have the God-given right to exist without being subject to harassment or being told to smile by some random man on the street. You do not exist for the pleasure of men and the male gaze. You exist for the glory of God and His glory alone. His gaze will never put you to shame. For, He delights in you. Keep your head up, sistas! The King is coming.

 

Recommended Reading:

Ain't I A Woman? Sojourner Truth

 

Songs:

Keep Ya Head Up - 2Pac

 

Conquerors - Kirk Franklin & The Family

Day 7 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 7: Worship in the Waiting | Michelle Higgins

 

‘‘Our humanity is our burden, our life; we need not battle for it; we need only to do what is infinitely more difficult — that is, accept it.’’

James Baldwin

 

I got all the love for Venus and Serena, y’all. It’s hard for me to verbalize the importance of their sisterhood of embodied unapologetic Blackness. My only journey into the realm of sportsgames (or however you say it) involvetennis tournaments, and Twitter clapback support when misogynoir comes for our sisters. I went all the way off a few years ago when a top tennis executive referred to the Williams as “brothers… scary to look at”. I am still livid, amidst all my un-surprise. Anti-blackness is worldwide and age old, and even though misogynoir is a newer term, all that mess is ancient. The bodies of our Black sisters have been mocked, lied on and mistreated. Win or lose, their every movement is a cry of confidence, a demand for dignity, a reflection of full humanity - powerful and precious. Those who fear the beauty of Black bodies will someday tremble at the appearance of the King of the cosmos.

 

Can you imagine?

Our “faith become sight” will be the bronze bodied, woolen haired Word of God.

Lord, haste the day!

 

For Black women whose works sets us in the center of our haters’ gaze, or under their power, our humanity is the gift that reminds us of God’s glory. Being our beautiful Black selves is a witness against those who disagree with God about our worth. In Him alone we live, move, work and worship. Our bodies are a resistance to those who would dictate the manner and purpose of our being. And our bodies are made to be God’s temple, His holy worship space. Sis, while we wait for comfort everlasting, we are invited to worship with our bodies in Spirit and Truth. When we lift our hands, run the aisles, exalt our Lord and embrace each other, we are making movements as little temples. Humanity is the ultimate worship space. God’s table is the place where King Jesus shares His blood and body for the enrichment of our own!

 

Let the scoffers throw shade, boo. Whether you rock the Venus stride - smooth, long and lean - or own the bold bootyliciousness of Serena, God graces you with His presence and promises to perfect your humanity when you call upon His name. The One who made you is the One within you, He is your beloved and He is coming for you. Worship him while you wait.

 

Readings: Exodus 40. 1-3, 34-38 / Ezekiel 40.1-4

Like the tabernacle that Moses was commanded to build, our bodies are unfinished dwelling places of the Lord. The tabernacle was impermanent, made to be movable whenever the people of Israel broke camp. God’s tabernacle is now with us and our bodies are His imperfect (yet perfected) temples. More than restoring us to our creational completion, He is building all of our bodies into a dwelling place together. Our cries for God’s justice to bring about real peace are an echo of our waiting for the day that God’s justice will also bring true human unity.

 

As we wait, worship is the incarnation not just the anticipation of the coming Kingdom. When we sing and pray together, we participate in the worship of the angels. The liturgies happening around the world now will endure forever. And those liturgies cannot be controlled by the opinions of people who are afraid of the Blackness that God made good. Your hip-hop dance team wants to jam out to “I Luh God”!? Do it. Jesus is the G. (and I mean the G. O. D.). Those who fear our freedom should fear the One who gave it to us, because nothing in the world can take it away. We know, they tried.

 

Exodus 40 is a picture of worshipping in desert places. God was not just teaching his people to worship so that they could worship in the land He prepared. He was forming them into worshippers who could sing to Him in the tent, see Him in the desert, follow Him out of slavery and praise Him on the march to freedom. They beheld God’s presence seated atop a tent. They did not move until God moved. The story goes: “Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out.But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up.For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.”

 

No wonder our foremothers viewed the African diasporictraverse as an iteration of Israel’s children. Blackness is a harmonized story of exodus and wilderness wandering, displacement and longing. As the Johnson brothers wrote: “Stony the road we trod.” Black gospel music carries a resistance to false notions that our lives can be defined by anyone except God. Black Gospel is worship in the waiting. SNCC Activist Euvester Simpson once said “songs got us through so many things, and without that music I think many of us would have just lost our minds or lost our way completely.” I know I am biased because I am a worship leader, but I FEEL sister Simpson so deep on that. Every note I sing among sin-sick, sad and weary saints is a prayer to our King to “show up and fix it.” I know He is coming and I know His presence is already here… that’s why I cry out to Him.

 

In this, Black music paints a picture of the Presence over the tabernacle, the Way-Maker leading us through wilderness. Worship then communicates something specifically to Black people: that we are shaped by our Creator and no one else. Our ethnicity has its origins not in the bellies of slave ships and kidnappers jails but in the mind of God. We are fashioned by God’s hand, from His imagination, born in the bosom of His providence. We are sustained through suffering by the promise of His coming perfection, which the Holy Spirit reminds us of through His current presence. The Lord Jesus knew that we would need this gift which is why He sent the companionship of His Spirit.

 

All of creation groans for the Day of the Lord, yet the meadows are clothed with flocks And the valleys are covered with grain; They shout for joy, yes, they sing. (Isaiah 65:13)

We also, along with creation, groan inwardly as we await our adoption and the redemption of our bodies.

The angels themselves, the multitudes of heavenly hosts, are praising God, yet they too do not know when the Lord will appear. My sisters, Our Lord Jesus is currently sitting on His throne, and is waiting for the Day of the Lord.  For the Son does not know the day or hour. Yes, even the King lives in anticipation for the trumpet to sound. Jesus Christ, the one we long for, is longing for us. He is in a perpetual state of Advent, waiting for the Day of the Lord.

 

Prayer:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” - Matthew 24:36

 

“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Matthew 26:29-30

 

Father, we know that you are patiently waiting, not willing that any would perish. But often it seems that all we see around us is death.  We know that you take no delight in our sufferings so we pray that you would come and wipe away every tear.

 

Jesus, we know that you are the One who sees all in this world.  On your throne you see all  pain and beauty, and still You, Yourself are left waiting. We long to be with You. We know that You long to embrace us in love undefiled from sin. We ask that you would teach us to live in this romantic anticipation.

 

Holy Comforter, like the children of Israel before us, we are tempted to look back to bondage when we believe the lies about our place in this world. We struggle to sing in these strange lands. Holy Spirit, be our cloud in the day and fire by night, lead us to Your land of freedom.

 

Recommended Reading: Citizen by Claudia Rankine

 

YouTube playlist: Worship in the Waiting

Day 6 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 6: Lies and the Traumatized Tokenized | Michelle Higgins

 

“It fits, but you can't make it work. Where there's pain, there's got to be hurt

But the green grass grows from the dirt. That's a fact of life, that's life

The good Lord stands behind every step.”

Chaka Khan

 

Reading: Daniel 3

 

I grew up in the Black Pentecostal tradition hearing sermons on “the three Hebrew boys” at least a few times a year. My sister and I can spell and pronounce some of the most obscure Old Testament names (#PKperks. Black bible nerds, unite!). Whenever my dad preached on this text, he always said “we know about that fourth man in the furnace”. Whether Nebuchadnezzar saw an angel or The Lord’s appearance himself, this vision of one “like a son of the gods” is a comfort to the faithful and a warning to the arrogant: God’s people bow down to only one King.

There’s a new image to worship every time we see the news, check our timelines, or look around our neighborhoods. The comfort of our coming King is that His word reminds us we need not put our trust in these idols, and His wisdom to us is that we take care not to construct idols ourselves. In some freedom struggles, Black women become the image people are expected to worship. In most power struggles we are the poster-people used to diversify a crowd of worshippers, legitimizing whichever racist, misogynist enterprise has been cooked up by the empire of our day.

One response of the fearful elite to Black women is to demonize us, another is to tokenize us. Those in power pretend in public that they adore us while behind closed doors their public remarks are a cover up for the plots to silence us so they can maintain the status quo. Our Lord Jesus knows this experience more than we could imagine. His story and His truth are our comforts. God’s words to the prophet Isaiah ring ever true: “do not fear what they fear, do not dread what they dread.”  

Multi-ethnic churches often act as numbing agents to the pain of those who are unrepresented. Our families are told they will have more power to preach reconciliation than in another church.

Much like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we may have higher positions than others marginalized. But the question remains, whose house is it?

Are we pledging allegiance to the Kingdom of heaven, or the flag of a government founded on massacre and oppression? These questions loom over these United divided States.

Are we building the Lord’s house or towers to the machinations of men? Both are worship spaces, though only one is sacred.

So many of us know the desolation of being tokenized, and then utterly forgotten. In the Evangelical church in the United States, urban missions has become one of the central myths of “valuing diversity”. But the truth is that many of the most conservative white evangelicals prefer Black folks to be seen and unheard, at least until the assimilation process (usually labeled discipleship) is complete. Meanwhile, white evangelicals who call themselves “allies” to radical Black liberation run away from home instead of facing their own racist inheritance when they “get woke”. Either way, we been lied to, fam. To those who attempt to disciple us into whiteness, we respond by awaiting the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. My sisters, do not fear the cultural expression they fear. Do not dread their diminishing prosperity and populace.

Black women experience deception even in liberal movements that claim to amplify our voice. Angela Davis writes about the early struggle for gender equality, when “Woman” was the supposed litmus test for people organizing for change: “not every woman seemed to qualify. Black women were virtually invisible within the protracted campaign for woman suffrage.” Frederick Douglass spoke often about the “suffrage movement suffering because it wouldn’t demand votes for Black women as well as white”. Famed male ally to suffragists Harry Beecher Ward said “women are more important than Black men”. And y’all know he was not referring to women of color. My God, how can we sing in these strange and stolen lands!?

My sisters, we are witnesses to lifelong seasons of waiting for justice. Black women are expected to coddle the people who exploit us and only challenge the people who want us dead. But we know the truth: manipulation is just as deadly as outright hatred. All the lies that tokenize still traumatize.

All creation is traumatized by sin. In our waiting for ultimate renewal, we must continue to confess sin that comes out of the lies we tell ourselves. Particular trauma often leads to particular sin. It is easy to see the way a traumatized person can traumatize others. The impact of displacement and removal has long plagued the Black diaspora. In government, and sacred and social spaces, we are colonized and mistreated by the same people who give assurances that if we leave our people and serve theirs, we will be given status and security. The best-case outcome is an ambiguous sense of belonging, since any idea of “normal” is dictated by people in power who are asking marginalized communities to bend to their images of right-ness into whiteness. But cultural diversity is God-ordained. He promises to restore the inheritance of His people who are languishing. And oh y’all, how often I feel our Blackness languishes for every stride towards liberation.

In our grief (our silent tears) of bearing communal loss and crying over social ills that we feel nobody understands, we can grow complacent in order to cope. In our fatigue (our weary years) of singing Zion’s songs while our captors mock or appropriate our culture, we internalize oppression in order to blend in. Whiteness, like all demonic deception, is not just an action carried out by an individual. It is a predatory institution, seeking to steal, kill and destroy. Because the primary defenders of whiteness are often baptized into a nationalism thinly veiled as evangelicalism, theirs are the kingdoms which sin seeks to build.

Sin against Black bodies that comes like a wolf disguised in suburban safety can tempt us to sin with or against our bodies and the bodies of our kindred.

We are tempted to bow down to the golden images of those who manipulate privileges for their own power. We begin to manipulate any newfound power to have those under us worship us as well. We might hide our motives or blanket them in a veil we call authority or expertise. We will always become like the things we worship. Daniel writes about three men who stood in bold ambivalence to the foolishness of a conqueror king, because he was not their true king. They knew who they worshipped, and the more they lived like Him the closer they came to His presence. The testimony of their accusers is a life goal for REAL, sisters. The king’s loyals said “These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Oh that this would be what the empire knows of us today! But we must not fear the fire, for King Jesus is there. His truth is our sweet escape from every traumatizing lie.

When Christ returns He will gather those who are riddled with the frantic distress of trauma. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord Jesus.  He will expose all falsehood and force every person bent on evil to bend their knee to the Truthful One. The King is coming to destroy the idols erected to the importance of America and her so-called churches. Then He will usher each tokenized child to an honored seat at the very table of blessing, in the kingdom that their faithfulness helped to build. Those whose voices have been hushed or made ashamed will sing and shout the victory.

Prayer of Confession [some portions from PrayingwithJamesBaldwin.com ]

Holy God, we are afflicted by various diseases, poisoned by our own trauma and miseducation, and fearful of the mortifying fires of sanctification.

But You tend to the needs of the isolated child inside of us who has been hurt… is still hurting. We need You and we believe that You will show up in the fire to redeem our plagued pasts.  

Merciful Father, we leave our people to seek higher ground from the floods of cultural peculiarity. We sometimes flee to forget the sufferings of the lowly. Forgive us.

We know that You will topple the mountains of men, and set the downtrodden in places of glory. But we are often perpetrators of violence towards the humble of our own people. Let us never use our power to control rather than to free our sisters and brothers.

O King Jesus, You are King of our life.  From You comes all power and authority.  Your sacrifice frees us to confess our sins, and empowers us with the meekness that makes us bold enough to face any fire.

[Confess your failures before God and your desperate need of Him in your own way]

Holy God, where the oppressors cover themselves in veils, uncover them. Hold their faces in the light, and let them know that you see their evil deeds.

Holy Son, when I try cover my sin, help me to remember that there is no hiding from you. Liberate me and bring my sin into the light, that I may repent.

Holy Spirit, cover me with your grace like a womb, and use my life to cover others in that same grace. Help me to remember that the truth I tell in my life echoes in the lives of those little ones who live and grow into your good future. Amen.

 

Songs:

Ain't Gon Let Nobody Turn Me Around

Seriously, Sara Bareilles, Leslie Odom, Jr.

Take Me to The Alley, Gregory Porter

Nobody Greater, Vashawn Mitchell

 

 

Day 5 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 5: #metoo, Mother Tamar, me too. | Michelle Higgins

The #metoo movement displays something akin to the core values of Black liberation: the most impacted people strategizing for their own freedom and self-determination. The victims of sexual abuse who speak up, along with the friends and family who support them and believe them, have become a community - a global neighborhood - that embraces fearlessness for the sake of protecting and dignifying the most marginalized in their worlds. They work in boldness as well as intercession on behalf of friends too endangered and traumatized to speak. They are demanding answers to the question “How long?!”

My sisters, how well we know this refrain. Black women been fighting for freedom since we first felt society’s chains: cover your curves, “talk proper”, make a man happy and “fix” your hair less nappy. Even churches have taught us that a woman’s freedom in Christ can only be known through the pleasing of men. We’re so poisoned by this mis-education that often we are not sure what liberation will mean if we ever really get it.

What then, to the woman, is freedom? Who is the Black woman unbound?  

I’m still asking God that question. Still becoming the boldly weak and real, unbossed and unbought daughter of the coming King that the Holy Spirit wants me to be. In the waiting, it is the story of Jesus that gives me hope and dignity. And today His foremothers are speaking to me. Will you join me in God’s word today?

Read Genesis 38

That the Apostle Matthew establishes the Lord’s connection to Tamar is a testimony to what God calls significant, and an invitation to us to view her as such.

One may assume Judah internalized the wickedness of his sons which may have led to him feeling ashamed that he was incapable of raising a holy son.  Despite his moral perversion, he was endowed with the power to make or destroy this woman’s life.  Judah is the anti-Father.

Black Womanist bell hooks says there is no desire for male love stronger than that of a son or daughter’s craving for being known and nurtured by a dad.

Both Er and Onan died by God’s hand. In Onan’s wickedness, he sexually traumatizes Tamar. Judah’s response to the death of his sons is punishing Tamar with isolation. He does not say “I will raise Shelah to be holy, so that you will have a husband who does not die”. He sees Tamar as a curse and wants her removed from him, but he still wants power over her. He makes her live as a widow so no one else can touch her.  Ain’t that the same old game. Judah has the power to make Tamar invisible, and he treats her as disposable. By removing her from his tents, and making her wear extended widowhood while he has a living son (her rightful husband), he misuses his power and traps her into a social restraint. Judah makes Tamar a woman in waiting.

Instead of admitting, God punished his sons for their wickedness. Judah punishes a woman, an innocent scapegoat, for the sins of his wicked sons, perpetuated by their father. He denies Tamar of a type of advent.

That two people so tangled in brokenness and abuse - one villainous and one scorned - appear in the lineage of the earth’s Messiah should reveal how deep and wide is God’s redemption, far as the curse is found. The King is coming, even through the tragedies he plans to redeem.  

Advent is only hopeful waiting because the object of our longings is sure to return.  To be denied hope in the midst of waiting is torture, not advent. We see this in the eyes of our sisters and brothers who share their stories of invisibility and assault. Promised a raise in exchange for going down on our knees. Told to dress nicely, to smile big or keep quiet for the sake of keeping a job, and keeping our abusers appeased. We are made to survive abuse, accept abuse, prove that it happened, explain and exploit its impact, protest for ourselves and protect ourselves against it, and shield men from the emotional impact of being held accountable. Hold up.

Mother Tamar is saying enough. Rise up. I wonder if the lineage of Jesus would have continued had it not been for the tragic boldness of Tamar.  

Beloved, by the actions of a weary woman, weakened by scorned yet determined to have justice, our hope is secure. The King is coming, and He is already defending us.

God’s reaction to evil is justice. When Er messed up, Er got checked. When Onan despised Tamar’s body, God’s love for that woman’s body came through judgment of a man who dared to reject God’s beauty. When Tamar was scapegoated, made invisible, rejected and forgotten, she saw Wisdom weave pain into a freedom quilt, and carried out a “more righteous” action for her own vindication. She was given the boldness to break laws when those who were given the sacred responsibility to uphold God’s laws broke her. Vindication in the face of invisibility is the a gospel story.

God’s blessing to oppressed people is the proximity of their story to that of the Humble King. Our God drew near to the people who were considered disposable. Jesus became the scapegoat for all misogyny and sexual abuse.  He made his divinity invisible so that the invisible might know their worth. Jesus came to a world full of toxic masculinity so that he could display true love and righteousness toward women. His fully divine fully human body indwelt a woman’s womb. He took on the human body of a man and embraced women with dignity. He embodied the very maleness he created in order to redeem it. He spoke comfort, power and peace in a world that valued women only to the extent of their ability to coddle, copulate and conceive.

To Tamar, Jesus whispers “I see you, I treasure you”, He is the answer to the longing and lament of every #metoo.

 

Prayer [Rabbi Jill Zimmerman, Isaiah 40]

Blessed are those who reveal painful truths,

and blessed are those who bear witness.

Blessed are those whose unspoken story

simmers underneath,

affecting some parts of life, or coloring everything.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her

that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

 

Songs:

And He Shall Purify, Tramaine Hawkins

The Day Women Took Over, Common

 

 

Day 4 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Black Girl Magic And The Coming Shalom | Michelle Higgins

 

Reading: Proverbs 1: 20 - 33

 

“Life without knowledge is death in disguise.” Talib Kweli

Living on the margins produces a particular wisdom. There is a reason that when God broke into the world His stage was a stable. Jesus lived His life as a poor person before stating, “blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”  We have experienced the fires of violence, but our oppressors did not know that the evil flames of hatred were used as the cleansing fire of God. What pains were endured to make Black girls “magic,”God redeems by His Spirit as the suffering that taught us wisdom. This brings us an unfathomable peace even as we await His ultimate justice.

 

Our stories give voice to a symphony truth, which is a song the world does not want to hear.  When Jesus said “woe to the rich”, it confounded the leaders of His day. We are labeled as divisive when we protest laws that label poor people as criminals. But it is a Godly imperative to express a wisdom which is only forged through pain. In obedience, we share this knowledge as a public witness to the world. Black History’s fat stack of receipts decrees rebellion against the fallacy of a Christian America. This wisdom is a sword which cuts through the myth of peace when there is no peace, and there never was. We have experienced the many hardships to obtain the Kingdom of God.

 

Much of the experience of marginalized women is a picture of what humans can endure in faithfulness to God.  Black girls should not have to be “magic” but Dr. King’s words are still true that “unearned suffering is redemptive.”  What exactly is the fruit of such endured suffering? The question is our lament and refrain in this season of advent. Sisters, we know this well. But the King is coming, and His wisdom is our reward in the waiting.

 

It is a gift to us that wisdom in God’s word is personified as a woman.

For us, she brings dignity to our identity. For our fathers and brothers, she is an invitation to understand that God’s image is fully revealed through interdependence with their mothers and sisters.

 

Black women are real, weak, and weary. By God’s grace we share our stories not out of our arrogance but out of his wisdom. In her “Slave Song”, Sade sings “Wisdom is the flame, wisdom is the brave warrior that carries us.”  Wisdom wept over us across the Middle Passage. She hid herself from arrogant oppressors who presumed they were creating a new republic on what they called new land. She refused to answer those who ate “the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices”. She damned the destructive purposes of the simple minded. She will not let them be at peace.

 

Is there fulfillment of our longing in the waiting for wisdom to be heard? Our King says yes. The plea of wisdom personified in the voice of a woman is fulfilled in the body of the God-man, Jesus. Those who hear the cries of wisdom and turn at her reproof will be free to rest.  When He returns, he will take those on the margins and escort them to the center of His kingdom of perfect peace, a city of shalom, where the King rules and reigns forever.

 

Prayer:

Oh God, all the Black women in us are tried and tired. But we know that you are with us.

We often feel unseen, unappreciated, and unloved.  Yet you have seen our work.  

We feel the pains of misogyny and inequity -  we work tirelessly for what seems like little reward, But You are the glory and reward that is to come.

Holy Spirit, we thank you for the precious gift of wisdom, our reward in the waiting.

Help us to hear and heed her cries.

 

Songs:

 

Slave Song, Sade

VRY BLK, Jamila Woods

When The Battle is Over, Benita Washington

 

 

Day 3 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Bold Weakness

Michelle Higgins

We are called to make peace and pursue peace. God’s word shows us that peace is ultimately brought about when justice flourishes. The oracle of the prophet Habakkuk is a picture of what happens when we separate these realities: “the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted”. How deeply we feel this today. In the United States, generations of native nations watch the descendants of colonizers and kidnappers move over spaces stolen from their rightful owners. Our mothers and sisters bear the strains of racist, reductive social requirements. Dr. Wil Gafney writes “The cry of Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord” has been a staple in black preaching and a heart-cry of many womanists. It has also been a common hermeneutical response to the extra-judicial killings of black women, men, and children by police”. While a “strong Black woman” takes every pain and abuse muzzled and lying down, only an “angry Black woman” demands justice for her invisibility and the state of global anti-womanism.  “How long?” is our daily refrain. Blessed beloved, the King is coming. He has sent his answer.

 

Scriptures: Habakkuk 1-3, Psalm 74

 

When I was a child, I remember my mother preaching on Psalm 74. Quoting verses 9-12, she said “None of us knows how long. That’s why we take our burdens to God, the King of old”.

Habakkuk teaches us the same. He shows a boldness in bringing his questions to God. He seeks an answer to his complaint not only because he does not have answers, but because he knows - like the old folks say: he knows that he knows - the God who has all the answers. By testifying to God about God (“Are you not from everlasting?”), he glorifies the Limitless One in confessing his own limitations. This is not a man resigned to his own weakness, this is one of God’s servants displaying prophetic weakness. His is a testimony that the unction to cry aloud is God given.

My sisters, our God the King is not so fragile that he hears only quiet, shy prayers.

Your discomfort in injustice is by God’s design, you were made to bring your complaints to the King of old. Even when everyone around you would have you be quiet, cry out for justice from the one who has promised it to you!

When my neighbors take the streets to protest laws that make impoverished people invisible, I raise my voice to God as much as I am demanding sensible action from the mayor’s office. Because I know where real justice will come from. When the Evangelical church lifts up the Trump regime in ways akin to the “peaceable” citizens who celebrated Nazi Germany, we must cry out to the true King even if it sets us at odds with people who claim to call on the same. Unless we bring our complaints to God as people who have no answer, we might presume we can strategize for deliverance (or safety, or “keeping the peace”) in our own talents, by our own strength.

It is when we express our childlike dependence on God that we see that He is the One who lifts our heads.  Bodies and lips that quiver reverently in the presence of Creator God display little patience for the destructive schemes of man. If we know that we are God orchestrated, we cannot be man-manipulated.

When it seems that only greed and arrogance will inherit the earth, we must cling to the promise that God will dismantle the entire structure of so-called superpowers. He will make the mighty tremble and He will avenge all wrongs.  In that day, it is the meek that shall inherit the Kingdom. Those who refuse the moniker of meekness might not know the joy of holy weakness, that gift to the impoverished of spirit that sings over them in suffering. It often comes with little money, a lack of material security and no acclaim.

It makes people of color ambivalent to the white gaze. It gives us chill in otherwise awkward conversations and confrontations.

It is a intangible, rich inheritance that makes us shout for joy like little children in the presence of our haters. This was Habakkuk’s reaction to God’s answering his complaints: the obedience to run with the vision, and the power to praise in the midst of oppression. We know that the King is coming, and though he may not come when we want him to, he will be right on time.

Beloved sisters, weakness will be rewarded with power. In Jesus, your humanity is not met with scorn or derision but with love and compassion. Your confession is not only met with God’s pardon but with his very presence. Let’s go boldly, weakly, before Him in prayer.

 

Prayer:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You have sworn yourself to us in love.  It is this commitment that gives us the freedom to admit our frailty.  What the world has called weak or feminine you have called good.  Help the Church to embrace our full calling as the Bride. Though we feel the weight of having to be more than humans, you are the ones who help our striving to cease. Show us the beauty of the complexities you have made in us: Black, bold, limited and free.

Help us to no longer be afraid to come to You as little children in need and want of your tender mercies. In your power, Holy Spirit, our Great Helper, work in us as we strive to participate in your motherly care for the world. Amen.

 

Songs:

Show Yourself Strong, Fred Hammond https://youtu.be/3813XIhRJPY                                     Beams of Heaven (perf. by Oleta Adams), https://youtu.be/QeNRy0kYTtM