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🍼 Advent is about Listening (to unheard voices)

C. Wess Daniels
C. Wess Daniels
Happy Friday! I trust you are all happy and well. I am excited to get a little time off for the holidays and spend it with the family. Magnolia is just about old enough, and has had enough of her shots, to start going on walks around the neighborhood so that will be fun! I hope that you and your loved ones have a beautiful holiday season. I’ll be back with regular newsletter updates in the new year.
In other news:
My talk, “Jesus Against Empire: ” is now available online. Thanks to the Southern California Quarterly Meeting for making that available. You can watch it here.
In today’s newsletter, I’ve added a bunch of extra links, articles, and some fun lists that I thought you might enjoy. And today’s Advent reflection is on what it means to listen to people like Mary whose stories are often discredited by those in power.
Whose stories am I being invited to believe this season?
Thanks for reading and have a great holiday season and end of the year.
-Wess Daniels

Reflection: Advent is about Listening
Last week, I shared some about Mary’s background and the importance of seeing advent as an invitation into God’s work of liberation and justice, rather than seeing hope as “evacuation” theology.
The Nativity at the Border (Washington Post)
The Nativity at the Border (Washington Post)
Another thing I learn from Mary about Advent is that it is about listening. Mary listens to the angel Gabriel when he tells her that she is to be with child. She hears the difficult message and accepts courageously. 
Advent is about the Pagan Stargazers - the Wise Men - listening to the natural world and the messages God was sending through the cosmos. In the advent story, the Shepherds listen, while those in power not only refuse to hear, but actually seek to extinguish the “still, small voice,” emerging from Bethlehem. Advent centers the outsider, the marginalized, and the unheard as those who are first to listen and response.
But there is another thing: Advent is about a God who listens.
In the Magnificat Mary announces that: 
he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant….
he Mighty One has done great things for me,…
he Mighty One has done great things for me, He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly; 
he has filled the hungry with good things, 
and sent the rich away empty. 
God has listened to the cries, the prayers, and the anguish of the powerless. God responds and response to the poor and those crushed by empire, all the while sending the rich and powerful away empty handed.
If this isn’t good news to the poor, I do not know what is. If this isn’t confounding news to the rich and powerful, then they are not listening and do not understand their history or their future prospects.
But there is one more piece about listening; and this is where I am worried I might lose you. 
Advent is about listening to and believing Mary. 
I understand that believing in the virgin birth seems so passé at this point and a little too impossible: I must be honest and say that I find myself dancing between these options regularly. 
However, this year, with the work and learning I’ve been doing around the Poor People’s Campaign and liberation theology, I’m realizing more and more the importance of believing the poor and marginalized when they tell you something.
What made me think about Mary in this context is something that my good friend and Quaker minister Peggy Senger Morrison once wrote about Jesus’ resurrection and the women who were the first to tell the story:
I do believe that He was resurrected. Bodily, on the third day. I will always believe this. For many reasons-but foundationally, fundamentally, deal-breakingly, because I will not betray the women…
I will not discredit the voice of Magdalene, nor her spiritual mothers and sisters. I will not stand with the unbelieving brothers, the skeptics. I will not turn them into metaphor, or allegory, or hagiography. I will not let my modernist sensibilities blackball their words in shadow –less than other words, even the words of the Master. I won’t make them smaller. Their part has been shrunk enough already. I won’t discount them; they are already a bargain. 
So while I understand how the virgin birth grates against our modern sensibilities, I am challenged to listen to those who the religion of Empire says should remain silent, whose voices and lives don’t matter. Whose stories should be dismissed as silly and unbelievable, or worse, as a nuisance that should be eliminated.
Today, during this Advent, in light of all that we have lost, in light of the 140 million poor in this country, in light of those for whom justice has not yet come, for all those whose backs against the wall, I choose to believe Mary.
We have the virgin birth because that is what she told us happened to her. And I believe what she said. I believe that God came to her and gave us Jesus through her and that even though it is a mystery to me, it is important for me to practice believing what women, and people of color, and the poor to me.
This Advent remember that it matters who you listen to.
It matters who you choose to believe.
“It is always shocking to the system [and those in power] when they learn that God is working outside the structure that human hands had established.” -Link
If we want a new story to arise, then we need to believe different people. We need to believe different stories. We need to prioritize the stories and experiences of the poor and the marginalized over the stories of the rich and powerful.
A movement for true liberation begins with believing the stories we’re told are unbelievable. Stories that are not credible or too inconvenient to the powers that be. 
The poor are experts of their own stories and experts when it comes to knowing what they need to survive. 
Advent is about who we listen to. It is about believing Mary, because in doing so we internalize and ritualize the practice of listening to the powerless and poor. We recognize that it matters who we believe and in doing so we sacralize the practice of listening to those outside the center of power. We listen just like the poor fishermen, shepherds, stargazers, and God listened to a poor Palestinian, brown-skinned Jewish woman named Mary. 
❓Query for Personal Reflection
  • Whose story do you need to believe this advent?
  • Do you believe Mary and those she represents? What helps you to do so? What makes it challenging for you?
🗣 Upcoming Course
I will be doing an hour and a half “teaser” course, Resisting the Evils of the Religion of Empire is an online, “pay-as-led” course hosted by Woodbrooke Quaker Study Center. The longer course will be posted soon and I’ll share the link here.
9th February 2021 - 9th February 2021 
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Watch: Jesus Against Empire
What does the Jesus of the Gospels have to do with the "American Jesus?"
What does the Jesus of the Gospels have to do with the "American Jesus?"
The talk I recently gave to the Southern California Quarterly Empire, Jesus Against Empire, is now available for online viewing here.
🐦 Tweet Thread of the Week: What's Your Favorite Christmas Movie?
c wess daniels is "like a quaker curator" -@p2son
Just remembered one of my absolute, all-time favorites:

The Office Christmas special where Michael Scott brings an iPod to the Secret Santa office party.
David Hayward
A pregnant Mary says to an upset Joseph, "Listen Joseph, I know you're one too. But it's more important to the patriarchy and purity culture that I, the woman, be a virgin."
🔗 Dress Down Friday Links
Jo Vallentine: Cheeky Divine Obedience — Inverse Podcast — Overcast
Mahalia Jackson – Keep Your Hand on the Plow Lyrics | Genius Lyrics
MacStories Selects 2020: Recognizing the Best Apps of the Year
The U.S. Undercounts People In Poverty—By 106 Million, Advocates Say | Sojourners
Jeremih & Chance’s Merry Christmas Lil Mama: Rewrapped (Disc One) by "Chance The Rapper"
The Bible Bash Podcast - God's Gender with Avery Smith--Hosea 11:9 | Free Listening on Podbean App
The Ghosts of Christmas Present: GOP Kick the Most Vulnerable Amid Pandemic | Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
📆 Upcoming Events
Freedom Church of the Poor 6pm Sunday Evening on Facebook Live
Candlelight Christmas Eve Service with Quakers:
First Friends Greensboro (the meeting my family and I attend)
First Friends Greensboro (the meeting my family and I attend)
Topic: Welcome the Light in Your Life
Time: Dec. 24, 6:00 p.m.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 831 2001 0084
Passcode: 597430
Providence Friends (Silent/Unprogrammed) 4:30 12/24
Betsy 😷 Cazden
@cwdaniels Providence (RI) tho I can't promise "really cool." We normally have a candles-only service at the 1703 Saylesville meetinghouse, but this will be virtual. 4:30 pm EST. Visitors welcome and can contact for link.
💚🧠 Final Thought
A Ritual To Read to Each Other - William Stafford
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
☕️ Thank you for Supporting This Newsletter
As always, I am very grateful for your support in reading, sharing, and sending in your feedback about my newsletters. At the end of this year, I’m particularly grateful for the ways this newsletter has grown and helped build a sense of community among those who read it. I can’t believe I started this less than a year ago and we have 360+ subscribers and have published 23 issues!
Also thank you to those who have been able to buy me a coffee or two for the making of this newsletter and my other ministries.
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all of you.
-Wess Daniels 💚☕️
Greensboro, NC (Haw River Watershed)
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C. Wess Daniels
C. Wess Daniels @cwdaniels

Old and New (Spiritual) Technologies For Life Today in the Face of Empire. Renewal and change in the hopes of mobilizing communities for love & liberation.

Wess Daniels
Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College

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