‘In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered’   Luke 2:1 

This is how Luke introduces the birth story of Jesus.  As a result of this decree Mary and Joseph move from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the birth place of the shepherd boy King, David.  Thus, the Messiah is born in the proper place, in a borrowed room in the midst of forced migration.  In so doing the Roman Empire inadvertently brings about the fulfilment of a prophesy which will ultimately bring about its own subversion.  Empire declares in such decrees its power to control and exploit at will. We counter them in these advent reflections with the contra-decrees of God’s upside down order, that send Jesus up against Empire, and his followers with him bringing Good News of Jesus and the change he brings.

Let us seek a moment

of quiet amongst many voices.

Voices which tell us

Of our world:

Profit is everything

Politics is pointless

Shopping is redemption.

Mexicans are criminals

Migrants are scum

Muslims are extremists

Black lives don’t matter

Women are toys

Queers are abnormal

The Earth is to be exploited

Resistance is futile

There is no alternative

Let us make room

for the broken reed to speak,

the rock to cry out,

the unspoken text to find its counter voice:

Comfort, O comfort my people

Says your God

Encourage the people of Jerusalem.

Tell them they have suffered long enough

and their sins are now forgiven Isa 40: 1 – 2

CWM’s Assembly in Jeju in June 2016 heard about the ‘Halmoni’ movements of North East Asia.  During the Japanese Occupations of countries like Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan women were forced to work as ‘Comfort Women’, as sex slaves for the Imperial Japanese Army.  They gave ‘comfort’ in the form of habitual rape and torture.  An estimated 400,000 women and girls across Asia were abducted and forced to serve in so-called “comfort stations” by the Japanese military during World War II. A majority of these victims were taken hostage in South Korea and China, but women were captured in virtually every territory occupied by the Japanese, including Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Two Korean ‘Comfort Women’ survivors, Kim Bok-dong and Gil Won-ok launched the Butterfly Fund in 2012. The fund aims to help women whose lives were suddenly torn apart after becoming war rape victims and who have since been living with the effects of their traumatic experiences.  The Butterfly embodies, decrees bodily and spiritual transformation and broods over our text like the Spirit to hear the counter will of God to Empire; Comfort, comfort my people:

We light the first Advent candle for the Comfort Women

and all who are the victims of sexual violence and war

The first candle is lit

[A song may be sung here or a moment of quiet kept]

Come Lord

Decree of Love

Grow louder in light

And summon us to your side

That we too may bring hope and change and comfort