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Join the Resistance: Advent Waiting

By December 5, 2016 2 Comments

By Brian Keepers

Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously. – Daniel 6:10

It’s not your typical Advent text. Not what you’d expect to hear from the pulpit in this season of anticipation and waiting. Actually, have you ever heard a sermon preached on Daniel and the lions’ den? I haven’t. Nor have I, in sixteen years of ministry, ever preached on this text.

But this is the story the Narrative Lectionary serves up to begin Advent. It tends to be a story reserved for children’s bibles and flannel graph boards. Domesticated, sanitized, made cute. I can still see the illustration in one of our children’s bibles of a boy version of Daniel, a big smile on his face, affectionately cuddling several lions like pet kittens.

But make no mistake. The book of Daniel, and this story of the lions’ den, is not cute. It’s spiritual and political dynamite. A warning label should be slapped on this stuff: “Danger: handle with care!” This is resistance literature—a story about civil disobedience and hopeful defiance in the face of empire, injustice and evil. No wonder the book of Daniel, and especially this story of the lions’ den, was a favorite text that thundered out from African American pulpits during the Civil Rights Movement.

Which makes this story so fitting for Advent. Not just because it’s a story about waiting, but because it calls us to a kind of active waiting that means nothing less than resistance. Resistance to the busyness and commercialization that characterizes this time of year. Resistance to excessive shopping and over-spending. Resistance to the superficiality of bright lights and shiny tinsel that aim to distract us from the present darkness. Resistance to politicians and policies that oppose God’s will and demand our heart’s ultimate allegiance.

And how does Daniel practice resistance? By getting down on his knees and praying to his God. This is the kind of active waiting we see in Daniel, even before the moment of crisis in the lions’ den. In fact, prayer is what got him in trouble in the first place. Three times a day, before an open window facing Jerusalem, Daniel defied King Darius’ edict as he bowed to pray.

When Daniel bowed his knees to pray, it wasn’t just his “Yes!” to God and God’s kingdom (although it was certainly that); it was also his bold and courageous “No!” to anyone and anything that opposed God’s kingdom. It was his way of acknowledging that his heart belonged to God and God alone. It was his primary posture of protest. “The law of prayer is the law of action,” Karl Barth once said, for when we pray ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,” we “cannot come to terms and be satisfied with the status quo.” We are to “revolt and fight against” a world that is not yet the way it’s supposed to be.

Or how about these words from C.S. Lewis: “Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”

So as we begin the second week of Advent, hear the Spirit’s call and invitation: the true king is coming, has already landed. Let’s get down on our knees and join the resistance.

Brian Keepers is the minister of preaching and leadership at Fellowship Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan.

Brian Keepers

Brian Keepers is the lead pastor of Trinity Reformed Church in Orange City, Iowa.


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