Third Sunday of Advent

Photo by Funchye under creative commons license

Photo by Funchye, used by permission creative commons license

Contributed by Rev. Valerie Andrews. This is the third in a series of blog posts for Advent. Scripture readings for the third Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11.

Recently, as I sat quietly watching television, my daughter looked over and said, “Mom, did you hear about the women in Saudi Arabia?” I responded, “No, I haven’t.” She went on to say the women are banned from driving there and she felt it was unfair. I sat there for a moment and pondered what that would mean for any woman. What if driving was the mode of her getting to and from work? Perhaps driving could be how a woman transports her children to and from school, or maybe driving is simply for her personal leisure and pleasure.

I thought more about it and decided to look into why our sisters are banned from driving. What was the underlying factor beneath such a decision? As I googled to find more information, according to an article on Fox News.com (Associated Press), dated October 24, 2013, the driving ban was “imposed because clerics warn that ‘licentiousness’ will spread if women drive.” To suggest that driving without the permission of a male relative can make a woman irresponsible, wild, careless, or even unruly, and therefore, she must be banned from such an activity, is ludicrous! The idea that in 2013 there is still the domination of a man controlling a woman to the point of not respecting her rights or privileges, continues to tear at the heart of freedom for humanity.

But the psalmist encourages us as he describes our God as One of help and hope! The psalmist writes:

“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 146:5-10, NRSV)

Because of Who God is: the Creator, Faithful in all His ways, the Righteous One, a Provider, Deliverer, Healer, Lifter of our souls, the Watchman, and the Sustainer, we know that God is still able to make the wrong right, and to make the crooked places straight. With every situation that oppresses a woman or girl, including banned driving, God is there to help and to give her hope! And how do we know this? Unlike the men of Saudi Arabia, their ability to demonstrate control is only for a time. Nevertheless, in verse 10 of this psalm, we find the good news is that the LORD reigns, forever, and ever!

As I continued to read articles about this matter, I discovered that several women of Saudi Arabia made a decision to “drive for change,” and this should inspire us to hope in our God who helps us to sometimes, do the unthinkable. So as we consider our sisters both near and far who are dominated, in bondage, and are struggling to gain their freedom, let us not forget our God. As we pray to Him, may we always be reminded our LORD is the God of help and hope!

Prayer: God of help and hope, we lift before you during our time of Advent preparation all the oppression and exploitation in the world–may those who are victimized feel your strength and healing; may those who are oppressors and exploiters also find healing and restoration to wholeness through you. Help us to prepare ourselves to more truly be bearers of the light of Christ to the world. In the name of the coming son, we pray. Amen.

Rev Valerie AndrewsRev. Valerie Andrews serves as associate minister at Church of the Redeemer, Philadelphia, PA, and is national events coordinator for American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

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