O Lord our God, we have heard once again the rumour of rumblings in Bethlehem, anticipating the arrival of our salvation. Hound of heaven, you keep hunting us. You will not leave us alone; you will not abandon us to our distorted desires. We confess that we often long for a saviour who will do our bidding and take up our own personal and public causes. But these ominous sounds of Advent warn us that you will save us on your own terms.
So now we earnestly pray that you will reconsider. Please do not take from us the customary sentimentalities of our Santa Claus Christmas. Yes, we know that we shop and spend too much, and lose our heads during December (even November, and possibly October). But at least this long, hectic season keeps the economy going. There is work for the unemployed, and – “ka-ching” – profit for businesses. And where else will the money come from for boardroom bonuses? Please, Lord, do not discombobulate us with news that the real “reason for the season” is not the Winter Carnival, the fake Christmas trees, the family fuzzies, the cosy carols, and the dreaded January bank statement.
Do not disturb us by reminding us of the thunder and blood of our just (not to say expedient and lucrative) wars. Soothe us with the thought that these crusades will bring (at least to us) a better future, securing our exercise of choice, right to privacy, and freedom to watch football, and well worth the cost in men and money (taxes notwithstanding).
Yes, O God of kin and country, stop bothering us. The last thing we want to hear is that you are coming towards us out of stark poverty and imperial oppression as an uppity Jew who will challenge the powerful we obey and the opulent we envy. Do not tell us to repent of our illusions, deceits, and betrayals. Do not urge us to let go of a (homeland) security that depends on fear and violence. Do not warn us about our ecological hubris and irresponsibility. Do not call us to comfort the people cramming our jails, feed the homeless begging on our streets, tend the sick waiting for treatment, and welcome the immigrant looking for sanctuary. And please remove any sympathy we might have with the bums who are protesting in those Occupy Whatever camps blighting our cities.
O God, we are so scared of living without self-interest that we shall surely attack anyone who tries to make us feel guilty or ashamed at how unrecognisably Christian we are. If you really want to do us a favour, forget all that stuff about a kingdom without anger, vengeance, and greed, for they are our food and drink, our turkey, mince pies, Stilton and port. Do not ask us to become saints. Just leave us to fairy lights, ASDA, and Ferrero Rocher…
O God of all truth, forgive what we have just been praying, even as we admit that these are the lusts of our hearts. Teach us how to speak of your coming kingdom, of your power disclosed in weakness, in such a way that we might become true and faithful disciples, followers, not fans, of Jesus, the Nonviolent One we crucified because we couldn’t bear his love.
Tell us what you want from us, make us want what you want from us. Do not leave us to ourselves. Do not leave us alone in the darkness of our own making. We are really quite lost. Shine your light in our night. Find us and take us home. Come, O come, Immanuel!
Based on a 2003 Advent prayer by Joe R. Jones, in On Being the Church of Jesus Christ in Tumultuous Times (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2005), pp. 226-27.