EDITOR’S NOTE: This reflection by Cláudio Carvalhaes is part of the 2019 Growing the Light: Advent Reflections on Farmworker Justice.
Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.” — Isaiah 7:13-16
In the cyclical celebrations of the Christian faith, Advent is a time of newness, a time to be prepared for the arrival of that which we couldn’t imagine, that for which we could not prepare enough. The season of Advent helps us prepare our hearts and our communities for the coming of Emmanuel, God with us. It is the time when love conquers fear, God fills us with courage, and our minds are cleared as we gain consciousness of something bigger, more important, more necessary.
The texts for today are preparing us for the coming of Emmanuel. The coming of Jesus is surrounded by awareness and preparedness. In Isaiah 7:10-16, we read that the coming of Emmanuel will be a process of transformation, one that will prepare the child to learn how to “refuse the evil and choose the good.” Thus, the arrival of Emmanuel is about a season of discernment, a time to see, listen, ponder, judge what is good and right, and act.
The times we live in are so confusing. We hear about fake news, climate change, and the condemnation of the poor. So much of our time is enveloped in anger and violence. Powerful voices try to convince us to blame those who are actually fighting for our common good. If we continue to get confused between what is good and what is evil, we and our land will continue to live in dread. Sometimes our beliefs don’t draw us into these processes of discernment. We get stuck, and we end up feeling lost and angry and fearful.
For Christians, Advent is a time to open ourselves up again to the good news of love coming our way, again and again, remembering who we are and to whom we belong. During Advent, we have the gift of discerning our way in the world. When we look around there are so many wonderful things happening, and the presence of God appears in places and people that help us discern good from evil.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the Fair Food Program are evidence of goodness and justice that speak to the active presence of God in our midst. Workers help us discern good from evil — help us tell the difference between real human rights solutions that work on the ground and those false yet nice-sounding solutions propagated by corporations more interested in protecting their reputations than ending abuses.
The Fair Food Program shows us how we are creating justice for every farmworker…indeed every worker. CIW has worked with the FBI to investigate and free more than 1200 persons trafficked for labor in the fields and to assist USDOJ with putting traffickers behind bars. But most importantly, they created the Fair Food Program that actively prevents modern-day slavery in the first place. The CIW’s model of ending and preventing gender-based violence is being translated to other industries around the world. CIW doesn’t do this on its own — workers are leading the movement for these changes, but that movement involves you and me. We are invited to use our power as consumers to be a part of the expansion of justice and hope in our world right now through the Wendy’s Boycott.
The Fair Food Program is an example of what we need most in our days in order to restore our world from collapsing. With workers’ voices setting the standards and consumers demanding retailers join the Program (the gold standard of social responsibility), together we are restructuring our food system to ensure good and well-being for all.
As we go through the discernment process that Advent offers, remember that even Emmanuel had to go through a process of learning in order to distinguish good from evil. It is our task now to continue this process in our time. Can we name the evils that threaten to kill us? Can we identify and magnify the good that is fighting against the forces of death? Can we name and live the love that demands justice and welfare for all?
Take a look at what the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are doing through the Fair Food Program and the Wendy’s Boycott. They can surely help us stay awake and discern the call of love that God is issuing to us right now during Advent.
God of love, you are coming to us once again, giving us opportunities to start anew. In our new beginnings, help us in our process of discernment so we can “know how to refuse the evil and choose the good.” Help us become God’s presence in the world so we can turn from evil and the emptiness it creates. We cry out: Emmanuel, God with us! And with the Psalmist we pray: Restore us, O Lord God of hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved. Amen.
Searching for a gift that matters this Christmas? When you make a donation to the Fair Food Program in honor of someone, your gift goes to protect and advance farmworkers’ human rights. And the Fair Food Program has beautiful holiday cards you can print or which can be emailed. Give a gift of justice, respect, and hope today.