Editor’s note: This Advent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
By Rev. Dr.Teresa Chávez Sauceda
“For I am about to create a new heaven and a new earth.”
In the first week of Advent this year, in San Francisco, a young African-American man, carrying a knife, was surrounded by more than a dozen police officers, shot multiple times, and killed. Passengers on a bus captured the incident on video and the community in Bayview/Hunters Point where the shooting occurred organized quickly to protest the unnecessary killing and to demand change from the police department. In another part of the city, just a week before, a homeless woman gave birth literally on the sidewalk at a bus stop on a busy downtown street. As the baby lay in a pool of blood, people stood by, some called for help. It was a bike messenger, a Latino father of two, who stopped, took off his sweatshirt to wrap the baby, protecting it from the cold until the fire department arrived.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, a vision of a city where poverty is unknown, where people live to enjoy the fruits of their labor, where systems of injustice and oppression are ancient history — forgotten by God’s people. In the face of the human suffering all around us — pervasive systems of racism, sexism, entrenched poverty, and ceaseless violence — it seems like a fanciful dream of a distant paradise. Where is the healing so desperately needed in our own communities and around our hurting world?
We worship a God who approaches us — not as a distant deity, but in the birth of child — a child born to poverty, to exile, to oppression, and to the daily threat of violence from a government that exploited the people it governed and a political leader who held absolute power over people’s lives. If we ask where God is today, the anticipation of Advent, the expectation of Emmanuel/God With Us, born today, leads us into the midst of all our brokenness and suffering.
Emmanuel/God With Us, invites us into the places of pain and struggle — to meet our neighbors and to encounter the healing presence of God. Emmanuel/God With Us invites us to act with expectancy, to live and to love as though God’s new creation is now — doing justice and loving kindness, that we might taste and share the beauty and the joy and the peace of being with God.
Rev. Dr.Teresa Chávez Sauceda is the program manager for advanced pastoral studies at San Francisco Theological Seminary.