During this season of Advent, Unbound invites you to journey with us to the manger. Walk with us as we reflect on the ways in which we are called to act justly, love immensely, and wait actively for the kindom of God. The Unbound Advent Resource offers reflections for each Sunday of Advent while also offering focus words for each day. As we reflect on each word, think of the word’s importance to you. What does it mean for today? The words for each week are included at the end of each Sunday reflection. Our social media platforms will feature each word for each day. Again, join us on our Advent journey.
But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were,so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. (Matthew 24: 36-44, NRSV)
On April 24th, 1980, Ken Horne was sent to the Center for Disease Control with a skin cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma. He would later be identified as the first patient with AIDS, the first of many who would succumb to the disease throughout the 1980s and 90s. Thousands upon thousands lost their lives without warning, without notice, without compassion while being met with toxic and hate-filled theologies of God’s revenge on “the gays” and a government that would not acknowledge the epidemic. People died, right and left. One day they were seen and the next they were gone. Rapidly, people lost their loved ones, their chosen families, their spouses, lovers, and friends. Like a thief in the night, AIDS took them away. Who would be next? Who would be the one to die? Who would be left and who would be taken away by this unmerciful disease?
The Gospel of Matthew transports us to a day of unknowing, a day of uncertainty. This passage has evolved throughout time as a passage about the ever so present “rapture” – when God will call up God’s elected and those who have not followed God will be left behind. For me, that notion is dangerous for there are times when God has nothing to do with who is left and who is taken. Here, we are called to keep awake. To keep awake to the dangerous theologies of a vengeful God that smites those whom we deem different. To keep awake to the grief left behind when we lose our siblings. To keep awake for the kindom of a God who is mysterious but merciful. And to keep awake to see how God moves within us, outside of us, between us, and among us.
Generations of queer people have not grieved their siblings while stigma towards HIV and AIDS is ever present. Globally, HIV and AIDS affects 37.9 million people not including the families of people with HIV or AIDS. This number is growing in some places because of religious ideologies that condemn reproductive rights, greedy pharmaceutical companies, and the increase in drug usage. During this Advent season, may we resist the sinful systems that isolate and stay awake with intentionality to death dealing theologies. And may we act, educate, advocate and hold in love our beloved siblings with HIV or AIDS.
Oh God, on this first Sunday of Advent and on World’s AIDS Day, keep us awake in these times of uncertainty. As we begin our journeys to the humble place of Christ’s birth, may we remember those no longer with us, give space for grief, and always speak to dangerous theologies that dehumanize our siblings. Loving God, we wait and we remember the ones who are gone and the ones who are lost. Amen.
Reflection by Lee Catoe, Managing Editor of Unbound