As we celebrate the coming of the Savior to the world let us take time to pause and think about the opportunities we have in this restorative season of Advent. Seldom do we consider the connections of our economic priorities with the stresses of our planet’s biosphere, even less how those same priorities affect our homes and health. Those decisions were not made in the homes of everyday people, but rather in spheres and palaces of power and privilege. Gradually they moved away from sabbath and jubilee practices, to an economy controlled by their monarchies and the exploitation of their land. The jubilee practices, particularly those promoted in the Levitical laws, understood the intricate connections between labor, health and land. Yet as the world moved towards a centralizing power, they created a privileged nobility, and their economy became one of mining, particularly extracting labor and land. John the Baptizer audaciously proclaimed a message of repentance to awaken the agency of the covenant people to be actors in the redemptive plan that their God had set out for the covenant people, from an enslaved nation to a jubilee community.
What would it take to be a jubilee people? Interestingly in Luke’s Gospel we find that people from all walks of life, profoundly moved perhaps of John’s stirring message, asked questions of what needed to be done in order to demonstrate the repentance he demanded from the masses. To some he expected to share their goods with one another. To others who possessed taxing authority (publicans) they were to respect the just wages of themselves and especially of others. Even to those of foreign birth (soldiers), they were to behave as citizens of the Promised Land. The Jubilee Community was also established to bring blessings to the Earth itself. In the same manner that “crooked places” were to be set straight, society’s healing also meant healing for the land: property was not to be hoarded and farmland was allowed to rejuvenate itself periodically. It was akin to turning on a giant reset switch for the people and the Earth. All were to be set free from debt and extraction, so that the true potential of all can be celebrated in harvest and sabbath.
The celebration of Advent is for us to stop, meditate, prepare and work towards a new age of Jubilee. Winter is the time required for seeds to be sorted and prepared, just as we must read the signs to see when it is ripe to plant and reap anew. The opportunity will come to till, plant, nurture, wait, pray and care with hope that our efforts produces food and health to our bodies, to strive for an economy that restores the land that the Lord gave us, together with a willing vulnerability to share God’s blessings and bounty with love and joy. John’s challenge to repent is an opportunity for us to be agents of hope in times of debt and hurricanes.
Prayer: God of Jubilee.
As we suffer the mighty winds and storms of this world, we live in hope for the sun to shine, the rains that give life and the marvel of all things coming to life again. Gather in us through your renewing power, to forgive beyond what we think is owed to us so that we may strive to live in oneness with our neighbor. May we reconcile with the land that sustains us and with all of Creation. Give us love for the Earth which you have deemed good, and through the coming of your Son may we become the covenant people, the Jubilee people, the beloved community you expect us to be. Amen.
José González-Colón currently is pastor of the Iglesia Presbiteriana en Hato Rey, San Juan, Puerto Rico. A Brooklyn, New York native of Puerto Rican parents, he ministers with rural and urban communities as teacher and pastor with an emphasis on economic justice, environmental advocacy and food sovereignty. He is the current Moderator of the Synod of Boriquén, Puerto Rico.