taking the words of Jesus seriously

Advent is all about waiting. It is about patience, expectation, and longing. We wait in hope for the arrival of something better than what we have now. This is a joyful hope.

But Advent is about ache too — because longing and waiting are also painful experiences. For our exiled friends in prison longing for freedom, for our Palestinian brothers and sisters waiting for justice, for our loved ones on the streets dreaming of a warm home, waiting is agony.

Both Advent and peacemaking are experiences of hope, and hope is the stuff of survival. As one Palestinian friend said to me, “What choice do we have but to hope? The alternative is death.” We hope that something more beautiful is coming because we must, because the alternative is unbearable. And this work of hope is a muscular work, filled with sorrow, faith, perseverance, and resilience.

In my study, teaching, and practice of peacebuilding, I’ve learned that the work of peace is the work of preparation. We wait, yes, but we have much to do while we wait. The waiting of Advent, like the waiting of peacemaking, is an active waiting. As the African proverb says, “When you pray, move your feet.” In Advent and in peacemaking, we watch, we wait, we work.

I’ve been working this fall, along with my friend Claire Brown, to assemble a remarkable list of contributors for a daily Advent reader focused on what Advent has to say about peacemaking. It’s called Keep Watch with Me.

I want to invite you all to be part of this Advent journey. Subscribers will hear from writers who are black, white, LGBTQ, Latinx, Palestinian, incarcerated, Native American, Australian, Irish, South African, clergy, laity, activists, authors, organizers, and more. Every day, readers will get delivered to their inbox a daily reading, a unique reflection from one of the above writers, a prayer, and a spiritual practice crafted by Claire Brown.

RLC contributors like Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, Gareth Higgins, Micky ScottBey Jones, Mark Charles, Doug Pagitt, and myself will be part of this Advent series. Already almost 5,000 subscribers from every U.S. state and 50+ countries have signed up to journey with us, and we created a Facebook discussion group for us to all meet each other and process the reflections together. Subscribe for free at rebrand.ly/advent2017.

In this time of great division, this is the Advent reader we might just need — because what we need is another way to process the pain and beauty of where we are. This Advent reader won’t just give you comfort and joy; it will tell you the truth of waiting.

Come keep watch with us.

About The Author

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Michael T. McRay (MPhil, Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, Trinity College Dublin | at Belfast) is a writer, educator, speaker, and advocate. He is the author of “Where the River Bends: Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners,” with a foreword by Desmond M. Tutu, and “Letters from ‘Apartheid Street’: A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine,” with a foreword by Lee C. Camp. He adjunct lectures at Lipscomb University, serves as the cofounder of No Exceptions Prison Collective, and is the founder/organizer/cohost of Tenx9 Nashville Storytelling. He is currently working on this third book, narrating and analyzing the 50 interviews he conducted in Fall 2015 in Israel-Palestine, Northern Ireland, and South Africa on stories and perspectives of reconciliation and justice.

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