Advent Shock: Jesus, the Crucified Peoples

Advent season formally begins this Sunday. I love this period of intentional reflection on the meanings of the “coming of God,” in Jesus of Nazareth. The incarnation. Emmanuel–God with us!

Theologian Letty Russell wrote of “advent shock,” a poignant phrase that suggests that the current state of history and the “way things are” is being interrupted, even if quite behind the scenes and in hidden ways, by the righteousness and justice of God. The current state of things cannot hold the newness of the kingdom–they simply do not mesh. Like future shock, in the season of advent we are befuddled and disoriented by the coming of God. During this advent season I plan to post occasionally some reflections–or perhaps just questions–related to this “advent shock.”

For today, it is enough to quote these words of C.S. Song. After reflecting on the tragic re-appearances of holocausts throughout history–and ruminating on the potential in humanity for great evil, he turns the other direction:

History of course ha a brighter side. It records human achievements in arts, literature, science and technology. It also testifies to the genuine religious devotion of women and men who dedicate their lives to the well-being of suffering people and to the betterment of a society. This is all true. Prophets in ancient Israel come to mind at once. It was they who upheld the love and truth of God as the most fundamental principles of human life and community. But for them the history of Israel would have been just another history buried in the ruins of the past with no message for us today. The massive concentration of indomitable prophetic spirit makes it stand out in the records of humanity. Other religious communities are also capable of producing their own prophets who make truth and love shine in the darkness of power politics and debasement of basic human values. They ennoble the pages of human history and retain our faith that life and history have meanings beyond insane acts of violence and destruction. And the fact of the matter is that the world has been under the powerful impact of the redeeming power of that obscure Jesus of Nazareth ever since he, like a comet, appeared on the horizon of the Palestinian world two thousand years ago. His impact has grown steadily “in Jerusalem, and all over Judea and Samaria, and away to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And how he has inspired and continues to inspire men and women to be bearers of the torch of love in the midst of hate and the light of truth when lies prevail! Because of him God continues to be the living presence in the world of suffering and tribulations.

– C. S. Song, Jesus the Crucified Peoples (19)




About Kyle Roberts

(PhD) is Associate Professor of Public Theology and Church and Economic Life, supported by the Schilling Endowment, at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Roberts has published essays on Kierkegaard and modern theology, including several essays in the series Kierkegaard Research: 2014-10-14 10.26.51Sources, Reception and Resources (Ashgate / University of Copenhagen) and other collected volumes on various topics, including Pietism, Karl Barth, and Christian spirituality. Roberts has published Emerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God (Cascade, 2013) and is currently co-authoring a theological commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans) and a book about the virgin birth (Fortress Press, Theology for the People)