“I refuse to lose to Santa,” I said to myself as I saw the runner in front of me dressed in an inflatable St. Nick suit. I began the local 5k in the front corral, only for the leader to be directed to go straight up a hill when we were supposed to go left. Fifteen of us followed. The result, we ran an extra quarter mile only to make an unnecessary descent just as Santa and the back of the pack were making their first turn. So I kicked it into gear and passed Kris Kringle with a kind greeting...and a bit of resentment. How did he know the way to go?
The Scriptures are saturated with stories that hinge on a people on the go. Throughout these stories are the words of the prophets, calling for the people to live into the Torah- “this is the way you should go, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21). These messengers called to the forefront of their communal memory who they were and how they were to exist for the well-being of one another. These words, though, were not always adhered to and the prophets often resented and rejected as the people went astray.
These days, there are so many rapidly competing voices and narratives lobbying for our allegiances and telling us theirs is the way to go. Whether the capitalist market, consumer culture, or partisan politics, if we are not careful, we can be lured off course from God’s dreams for the world and towards one of self-preservation alone. Advent is a chance to fix our focus once again on Jesus, whose birth name is an ancient one meaning “God saves.” This deliverance was more than an escapist call to some other world or personal salvation, but the beginnings of a subversive movement in the here and now with a goal centered on the common good. It was a (re)new(ed) vision of jubilee and justice, equity and welcome to all people. This continues to be the way to go, may we walk (or run) in it- and not only at Christmas.