Do you know that every time when we say the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for Advent?
The second request of the Lord’s Prayer in Latin reads: “Adveniat Regnum Tuum.” In English: "Your kingdom come."
It’s clear that we are not praying for the speedy arrival of the pre-Christmas season with its whipped up consumerism and slowly awakening seasonal sentimentality. We pray and we await for a different advent. The advent of God’s kingdom! We pray for a radical change in how the world operates. How radical? Very radical. Just let us decipher and hear afresh the requests of this "advent" prayer.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
What divine will is done in heaven, that is not done on earth?
Well, we can start with the divine protection of all the vulnerable and the weak. In the Bible they are called widows and orphans. Their protection is so important to God, that it is repeated over and over again in the Law and by the Prophets. In the New Testament it even necessitated a complete reordering in the hierarchy of heavenly bureaucracy. Guardian angels of the little ones were lifted up into the presence of God, replacing the big shots of the cherubim and seraphim with all the archangels. (Matthew 18:10).
Just imagine elevating social services (guardian angels) before the ministry of war (I resist using that misleading euphemisms of ministry of “defense”). Just imagine, on a personal level, supporting the local food pantry and homeless shelters before leaving for Christmas shopping. Modeling our lives according to heavenly orders – that is what we pray for in Lord’s prayer. This is the Advent we seek.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Hunger in Jesus’ Galilee was as real as it is in our world. These words were intended for, and were originally said, by those who were hungry or lived from day to day. For many of us, who are not hungry, these words have a different meaning. We pray for the coming of a world where everyone has enough and world abundance is shared each day. No one can expand his or her life by simply hogging up extra food or resources, (the main lesson from the story of the stupid wealthy farmer in Luke 12:13-21).
And no one can eat paper money, bonds, or bricks of gold. Ultimately all of it, in some way, is a social and societal (or if you wish economic) agreement that we will care for one another. Just imagine eliminating all the private commercial retirement funds and building up one robust and generous solidarity system. Anyway, it is always today’s generation that cares for the past one, and trusts to be cared for by the future one. Solidarity, sharing and mutual care is the daily bread we pray for and look for during Advent.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Very appropriately, in our tradition, we use the words "debt and debtors."
Do you really believe that God was ever seriously concerned about anyone trespassing on someone else's property? We do not live in medieval England any longer. We are not warlords of dark ages for whom pillaging and trespassing was a capital offense.
Similarly, the understanding of sin got highly spiritualized, psychologized, and detached from world’s everyday reality. Meanwhile, debts were clearly very close to God’s heart from the oldest of times.
There are many biblical rules that attempt to control debt. Every seventh year there should be a remission of all outstanding debts (Deuteronomy 15:1f.) And the release of any debt slaves. (Deuteronomy 15:12f). In the agricultural society, the growing disparity between rich and poor was controlled by instituting a Year of Jubilee when all the land property was restituted to its original owners or their heirs.(Leviticus 25:10). Translated into our context, we pray and anticipate an advent of a world with lenient bankruptcy laws, a world where lending and mortgaging is controlled and regulated to protect the poor. We pray and promise not to torment or enslave anyone through money; freedom and relationships have precedence over money.
This is our Advent prayer: We pray and wait for the protection of the most vulnerable, for solidarity in sharing life resources, and for the elimination of enslaving debt. These are just three aspects of a radical divine world that we anticipate in Advent. So let us pray “Adveniat regnum tuum.”