This morning another eight Christian leaders face court in Perth on charges of trespass, a result of advocacy for asylum seeker children in the face of political intransigence and obfuscation. A particularly disturbing feature of the incidents of these arrests was the decision by the police, for the first time, to introduce strip-search procedures, evidently designed to intimidate and deter further protests. A year of like protest actions has turned a dark corner. However, those charged would still direct our thoughts to those languishing in detention in the tropical hell-holes of Manus and Nauru, where minors fear for their lives and remain devoid of hope. Christmas has something to do with the climax of the apocalyptic terror in John’s Revelation where a new heaven and a new earth are revealed. Revelation 21:1-6 is replete with prophetic imagery of hope realised. For two millennia, it has sustained the hopes and aspirations for followers of Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, contained for a while in a vulnerable infant. It is the vision and hope of a redeemed society that drives the thrust for mercy and justice behind the #lovemakesaway advocates who stand before our land’s magistrates. Such a hope, such a vision, is a gift of the seventh day of Christmas.
What a strong, evocative, celebratory song is Mary’s Magnificat!
And it is highly political, even seditious. If an agent of either Caesar or Herod the Great had been eavesdropping on Mary as she visited her cousin Elizabeth, neither of these women would have survived to tell the story.
Mary’s song, however, has become a trans-seasonal reminder, not of how “truth speaks to power,” but of how truth is claimed and celebrated in the face of the kind of tyrannical force that suppresses and smothers abundant shared life. And so the “proud are scattered in the thoughts of their heads” and the “powerful are brought down from their thrones.” The “lowly are lifted” and “the hungry are filled with good things.”
This is why this week’s prayer meetings in electoral offices by Christian leaders have been quietly respectful, peaceful and poised. There is no need to strive for truth to be spoken, it only needs to be present.
And the powers and principalities of the land can’t stand it!
The words of prophets nudge – sometimes even shove – us from our comfort zones. When the Apostle Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, advises us to take it on the chin, he also gives us an out: “Test everything, hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.”
That is, listen to the words of the prophets without dismissing them out of hand, but use wise discernment in weighing them. And let the spirit of God expressed through the witness of Jesus Christ through the community that follows Christ’s way be a guide. Further, the context is this: always rejoicing, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in all circumstances.
Around fifty Australian church leaders from across the whole Christian spectrum took the opportunity to test this passage last Wednesday, International Human Rights Day, as they publicly protested and endured arrest on behalf of asylum seeker babies bound for Nauru under new legislation enacted by Federal Parliament..
There have always been those who point the way – often only to the next marker, for even they cannot see beyond the fog. John’s gospel (ch 1:6-8, 19-28) introduces us to one who points to the source of life and light. Such pointing often leads to confrontation with those who are committed to pointing only to the next visible marker – often in the shape of short-term, easy-fix, immediate satisfaction goals.
Witness the peaceful protests by fifty Australian Christian leaders yesterday concerning children in detention and the imminent deportation of 25 infants to the hellish conditions on Nauru. Temporal political point-scoring may be a desirable outcome for a nation that has lost its way. Pointing to the Logos, the source of light, life and truth, illumines the fact that, no matter how attractive these short-term markers are – they are going the wrong way.
John the Pointer (aka the Baptist) was an irritation to leaders whose hearts were set on their markers then. It seems that Christian pointers in Australia, who submit to arrest and even strip-search to highlight the way illuminated by the Source, are as much an irritation today.