Advent for the Unseen

In the Christian calendar, Advent is the time we wait. We wait for the coming of Jesus. We wait for justice to roll down. We wait for Mary’s prophetic war cry to be fulfilled.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:52-53)

Mary’s Magnificat proclaims that the unseen will be seen.

When I consider who the unseen might be, I think of this painting by mid-century cubist Filipino artist Vicente Manansala. This portrait is called “Madonna of the Slums”. Dr. Juan Martinez speculates, “The average Christian in the global world is a young, brown, poor, single mother”.  Considering that “more than 1.3 billion Christians live in the Global South (61%), compared with about 860 million in the Global North (39%).” (PewResearch)  and that religion is as equal if not more important to women than men on a global scale (PewResearch) this seems to be a fair statement.

While the poor, brown, young, single mom is what many global Christians look like today, she is still often unseen. Her stories remain unheard. She carries with her a daily awareness of her body and what it means to protect it at all times because it is likely she has already been violated in one way or another. She cannot help but worry about her children at every moment. She will always worry about her children as long as she lives. She must find ways to innovate with what she has while creating new ways to provide for her children and maybe, if there’s something left over, for herself. She may even long for someone to partner with because some days it’s just hard to live life alone. All the while she waits.

Like any one of us, the unseen long for community. The unseen long for safety. The unseen long for a deeper love that surpasses all understanding. In the first century, in Bethlehem, Mary was unseen and she was ready to wait. In a few months, the world was about to change. Her child was the One worth waiting for. Her child would bring about a new day.

To the unseen, being seen is an act of deep love. Who are we not seeing in our worlds today? Who do we need to pay better attention to in our communities? While we consider who to give our charity dollars to, what gifts to buy, and what songs to sing this season, I encourage each of us to see the unseen in a new way. Like the One who sees us and loves us just as we are, may we see and love the unseen eye-to-eye and face-to-face this season.

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