This is the second reflection in a devotional series I’ve made for Advent 2020 called No Going Back. You can read more about this devotional and download a PDF copy here.

Read this week’s Scripture here.

It doesn’t take much to imagine that John the Baptist was probably a “controversial” figure. He did, after all, live in the desert, eat bugs, and call the religious authorities of his day a “brood of vipers” (Mt 3:7) to their faces. But it was more so because he told people the Kingdom of God was coming and they needed to change their ways – and it was for this reason that he was ultimately beheaded. We’re told in the Gospel of Luke that crowds of people came to John while he was alive to be baptized – but we can assume that just as many crowds saw John, didn’t like what he had to say or the way he looked, and ignored him. Jesus was treated in much the same way. He was maligned by the religious and political authorities of his day so much that he had nowhere to truly lay his head.

There is this common trope in disaster TV and movies of an anxious scientist trying to warn public officials of an impending catastrophe, such a volcano that’s going to blow or an asteroid hurtling toward earth. Sadly their warnings are ignored until it’s too late. You might see that storyline and think, “Politicians would never​ do that!” Yet in 2020 many elected officials, particularly in the highest levels of the United States government, said that COVID-19 was a hoax or asserted that it wasn’t ​that​ ​much​ of a threat to public health while hundreds of thousands of Americans have died – and continue to die – from the virus. And before the pandemic, they said the same things about climate change despite the fact that scientists have been warning us about it for decades.

The reason why Jesus, or prophets like John, or scientists and doctors in our country are ignored or outright attacked as ‘liars’ is the fact that their warnings challenge people’s worldviews; they threaten to disrupt the way we’ve ​always​ done things. Jesus’ whole adult life was centered on turning the status quo upside down – he healed those considered untouchable and disposable, he told the rich to give away their possessions to the poor, he spoke openly to women and included them in his ministry. Above all, he preached love, forgiveness, and compassion, especially for “the least of these” – the most marginalized. These teachings are still sorely needed, and they still fly in the face of the status quo today.

St. Paul tells us, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” (1 Cor 3:19) The ‘wisdom’ of this world suggests that the elderly should sacrifice themselves for the economy, while Jesus says the rich should give away their wealth and take care of the most vulnerable among us. The ‘wisdom’ of this world is that companies should not pay their workers adequately for the sake of preserving their profits – but God says do not steal, give your employees their due. The ‘wisdom’ of this world proclaims, “Time is money!”, but God says, “Honor the Sabbath.”

When I think about who is doing the holy work of disruption today, one person who immediately comes to mind is Tricia Hersey (aka the “Nap Bishop”), creator of The Nap Ministry. Tricia is an activist, artist, and theologian who, through social media, workshops, and “napping experiences” beckons all of us to (re)discover the power of rest. Her posts on social media remind me that taking time for rest is not only sacred and vital, but it also makes room for me, and all of us, to picture the world differently: “If you cannot imagine or envision a way for you to rest for 15 to 30 min a day, how will you be able to imagine or envision a world without police terror and equality for all? Our lack of imagination is intimately tied to our liberation. Our DreamSpace must be cultivated.” This centering of rest and self-care is a rebuke of capitalist “grind culture”, and it also gives me space to think deeply about what life would be like if I didn’t live paycheck to paycheck – what if had more time to spend with my loved ones, more resources to take care of both my and my community’s needs, more energy for leisure and creative pursuits? What if we all had those things, not simply the rich and privileged few?

The ideologies that hold our world up – individualism, productivity at all costs, profit over people, nationalism and fear of our neighbors – are so firmly entrenched in our minds and ways of life. The pandemic has exposed this in very visceral ways: people’s refusal to wear masks, companies not paying workers hazard pay, racist attacks and remarks directed at Chinese folks because of where the virus was first reported. We must listen to, and also share the work of, disruptors – folks who are telling us there is another, much better world to live in if we are willing to dream.

Some questions for you:

What are some of the ways your worldview has changed this year?
Are there internalized, toxic messages in your mind that need to be disrupted?

Feel free to share your reflections with me on Twitter or Instagram.


A prayer for this second week of Advent:

God of mystery, your prophet Elijah found you
not in strong winds, nor earthquakes, nor fires,
but in a still, small voice:
attune us to discern your words
amid the noise of this life.
Help us to be present,
that we may hear the soft cries of your newborn Son
and the choirs of angels announcing his coming.



This is the first reflection in a devotional series I’ve made for Advent 2020 called No Going Back. You can read more about this devotional and download a PDF copy here.

Read this week’s Scripture here.

When I was in high school, I watched a lot of “docuseries” about natural disasters and world-ending catastrophes. These shows catalogued the many scenarios in which life on earth could be completely annihilated: from the probable, such as an asteroid collision, to the outlandish – such as robots becoming self-aware and deciding to kill us all. This was a few years before 2012, too. Doomsday prophets and New Age thought leaders predicted that, based on their interpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar, the world would end on December 21, 2012. Of course, that day came and went, the Earth was not sucked into a black hole, and furthermore, indigenous Mayans and scholars affirmed that the whole idea was ridiculous and just a ploy for white people to sell books.

2020 feels different though, doesn’t it? There were no doomsday prophecies made about this year, yet it feels immensely apocalyptic. The coronavirus pandemic has completely upended our society. Healthcare systems are overwhelmed, and a collective failure to take mitigation efforts seriously has only made things worse. Millions have lost their jobs. The risk of infection has robbed families and friends of the opportunity to properly mourn the loved ones who succumbed to COVID-19. We also saw collective uprisings across the United States and around the world over the murders of Black people at the hands of police and how these protests were met with more police violence and repression. Wildfires raged across the western United States and Australia, bringing death and destruction. This year’s hurricane season, worsened by climate change, brought storm after storm, devastating Central America and the American South. Oh, and let’s not forget about the literal murder hornets – remember those?

It’s hard not to see the events of this year and not think that we are in the “End Times”. In the scripture for this week, Jesus tells his disciples to pay attention to the signs that the Son of Man is coming and prepare for his return. It’s a message Jesus repeats in many places in the Gospels, either explicitly or in parable: “Keep awake.” Be present. Stay focused, or you might miss it. In his book on climate change entitled We Are the Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer writes, “Encoded into our language is the understanding that disasters tend to expose that which was previously hidden.” When you think “apocalypse”, you think of a world-ending catastrophe – but the ancient Greek root of the word means to “uncover” or “reveal”. The chaos of 2020 has taken much from us – but it has also exposed the ways in which the systems upon which our world is built are actively oppressing and killing us all, with the most marginalized taking the brunt. The pandemic has shown Americans how deeply neglected our healthcare system is and how many Americans simply cannot afford to get sick and miss work. Coronavirus showed us too, how our capitalist economy allows some to work from home but  forces predominantly Black and Brown people to work essential jobs and potentially get sick, or risk losing wages. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor showed us that white supremacy continues to thrive in all of our institutions, particularly among police forces. The wildfires and hurricanes of this year reminded us that climate change will only make these natural disasters even worse – and we are running out of time to adequately address it. Crisis lays bare the things we may not have seen before, or more likely, chose to ignore. 

Jesus reminds us to be alert and pay attention to what is going on around us. I invite you to notice what’s happening internally as well. Are you stressed? Sad? Anxious? Are you eating enough? How’s your sleep been? For me, I know that for much of this year I’ve been operating on auto-pilot – trying to stay afloat with all the chaos, trying to keep myself occupied so I don’t think too much – that whenever someone would ask how I was doing, I’d simply say, “Oh, you know…just tired.” It wasn’t until recently, as I began really addressing my mental health needs in a deeper way that I could go deeper with my feelings. I am happy that I have time to contemplate and can still connect with friends despite being socially distanced. I’m mourning the many people who’ve died from coronavirus. I’m missing the many things I used to do without worrying about potentially getting sick. I am stressed about finances, but feeling assured that God will take care of me. I am grateful to have a home and enough to eat. I am tired. Know that all of what you’re feeling is valid, and deserves to be acknowledged. 

Is our world ending? Well, yes, the world as we knew it before the pandemic is gone, as much as we would love to “go back to normal”. But also because we are seeing the death throes of unsustainable, violent systems and ways of life. Our old habits and routines have dramatically changed as well. If we are paying attention, if we stay alert, we can actually take action to ensure that the world we rebuild – and the lives we create for ourselves – are more life-giving and more just than the ones we had before. 

A question for you:

What has this year revealed for you?

Feel free to share your reflections with me on Twitter or Instagram.


A prayer for this first week of Advent:

God of truth, awaken our senses to the truths you want us to see.
Help us to stay present and alert, that we may watch for the coming of your Son in our midst,
just as the shepherds watched and followed the star in the skies above Bethlehem.