By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann
“It’s not Christmas! It’s Advent!” declares my two-year old son loudly when strangers wish him a Merry Christmas. This kid carries his Grandma Jeanie’s spirit in his bold truth-telling with clear liturgical boundaries.
Advent is one of the things I have most looked forward to as a parent. It is a season of darkness, candles, slowing down, making Christmas gifts, wonder and joy, and learning the stories. Scriptures these days are filled with stories of our faith where the power dynamics are flipped on their head. Moments when after a long list of all those in power, God’s voice comes to John in the wilderness (Luke 3:1-6). Then of course, there is the story where amidst deportation and government counting, Jesus is born in a barn. The voice of God is not ringing from Kings or military warriors or presidents or bankers, it is in the poor, ordinary folk.
These are the stories we remember and we tell to the children in our lives. Yet it is not just in the old stories where we hear the voice crying out in the wilderness, we continue to witness these stories in our own time and place. For us this Advent, it has been in traveling on these dark, cold days to 36th District Court for the trial of Isaac’s grandpa.
Bill Wylie-Kellermann and Marian Kramer have been on a trial before a jury for two weeks facing charges of disorderly conduct for blocking Homrich trucks preventing water shut offs in the city for seven hours. The trial has been long and painful as the prosecution strategically delays as often as possible and brings questions to witnesses that make your skin crawl with the racist and classist assumptions.
In this dark place, Isaac has sat beside me in silence watching and listening. Each time someone names that the city is bringing charges against these two, the prosecution objects saying that it is “the people of Detroit” who are bringing the charges. My heart boils at the irony as this case is played by the top lawyers of the city under advisement from corporate and undemocratic forces that rule this city. No, indeed, the voice of the people of Detroit sits on the defense, is packed in the court room, and is testifying on the witness stand. Here again, we hear the voice of God not from the city building or Jones Day offices, but in the people of this city who are struggling to survive.
It is this voice I want Isaac to hear. It is this story I want him to witness. It is in these places of darkness that I want us to stay awake and be ready. It is in this God who is alive in the people of this city that I want him to know. It is with amazement and wonder I want him to trust that the powers and principalities can be over turned on their head. And that in community, we can hold onto deep hope and joy as we wait the long wait.
This is the season of stories. When our hearts remember the ancient stories passed on from generation to generation. We bring them to our lips again passing them on to another generation who will be nourished, filled, and inspired by them. For they are the stories of our faith- the ones that keep us alive and burning with a desire for the Beloved Community. We remember. We tell. And we witness again. May these stories take up home in Isaac’s heart and conscience. And may we all honor the stories and storytellers in our midst.