Resistance. It’s a word that populates our current culture in politics, art and conversation. Not often associated with Advent, it’s actually quite appropriate. Advent means coming, it’s the season in which we actively wait not just for Christmas, but for the return of Christ, the victorious, final coming of the Messiah to make all things new. It’s the ultimate form of resistance to the world in which we often think of as normal. But as many bumperstickers today proclaim, what we see is #notnormal.
Rarely used in Advent, our scripture comes from the most famous resistance literature of the Bible: the book of Daniel. Written down while, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (the worst of the worst) was ruling over the Jewish Nation, it wrestles with tough existential questions. He had outlawed all Jewish practices. He again destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem 164 BCE (just as King Nebuchadnezzar did in 597 BCE). How does one live faithfully in a culture and kingdom based upon idolatry? How does one live in a swamp of xenophobia, which rejects the Jewish people and actively works to subvert and annihilate their culture and religion? Where does one draw the line between what could be seen as collusion or collaboration and standing for what is just, true or right?
Our story is satirical. It uses humor as a subversive tool, much like the political comedy shows of today such as The Daily Show. The King is portrayed as an insecure buffoon. He builds this ridiculously large statue of himself to puff up his already over-inflated sense of importance. He convokes the whole government to the dedication to ensure huge public adoration. But our three refugee heroes refuse to bow to the idol. Their stories of faith-full resistance are similar to those of Joseph in the court of Pharaoh, and Esther in the Persian Court.
The King condemns their civil disobedience. Yet they respond not in fear, but persist in the trust of the saving sovereignty of God, whether God intervenes to deliver them from death or not, they will nevertheless persist, never doubting that God is with them; among them, even in the fire of persecution. We see this in the appearance of this mysterious divine being in the flames, among them, where none are them are burnt or harmed. Their hope is greater than their fear. They know why the law is unjust, why they resist, what they stand for. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. cites their story in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. [wiki] [Text] [original PDF] We might ask ourselves how their story is present in our ethical, political and religious battles today? How does it speak to us in a time which the public witness of Christians is being questioned and shaken? [Baptist News] [NY Times Editorial] [The National Review] [Christianity Today]
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What shimmers for you in this passage?
- What word, phrase or image touches your life today?
- What do you find comical or challenging in the text?
- How and What are the three heroes willing to sacrifice for their beliefs? Are they resisting or standing for something?
- What idolatries do you see in the text? How do they touch, confront us in your life?
- How does this story bring you hope in the season of Advent: the coming of Christ?
Download a PDF study Guide for Daniel 3 at CAPCOakland.org HERE.