Advent and the Pandemic of Racial Injustice

By: Rev. Dr. Kevin Murriel



History will record 2020 as the year that COVID-19 shook our world. It will be remembered as the year that we were forced to traverse unfamiliar territory and navigate a global pandemic that upended our lives. Political unrest has increased our anxiety, social distancing has detached us from much needed physical interaction, and joblessness and economic despair continue to loom over millions each day. We are in a strange land.


And while this public health crisis has burdened millions, there is another pandemic that we must face. Its transmission is not from airborne molecules or respiratory droplets produced when a person coughs, sneezes, breathes or sings. Rather, this pandemic spreads through systems designed to benefit some and disenfranchise others. It’s a pandemic that has existed for centuries and has claimed the lives of Emmitt Till, Viola Liuzzo, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Eric Garner, and countless others. To date, there has been no vaccine strong enough to end its destructive effect.


This pandemic is a virus of racism and injustice spread through divisive rhetoric, intolerance, miseducation, fear, and a consistent disregard for the sacred worth of humanity. This virus labels immigrants as criminals and engenders a xenophobia that causes violence against those who seek to live in peace. Millions have been infected and affected by this virus, and the most dangerous carriers are those who are asymptomatic and mask their prejudice behind the veil of religion and piety.


The long-term effects of this pandemic are grueling, and people of color disproportionately feel its sting.


Advent is a season that should call us to conviction; to examine our morality and love for others as we celebrate the coming of Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew, surrounding the birth narrative of Jesus, we find the Massacre of the Innocents. Herod the Great, king of Judea, would order the execution of all male children two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem because he feared the coming of the Messiah, the King of Kings. For Herod, Jesus threatened a power structure designed to keep the marginalized oppressed for generations to come.




And in the midst of a systemically oppressive structure perpetuated by those whose thirst for power and privilege was unquenchable, our Messiah arrives. Jesus comes, unassuming, incognito, and humble; Emmanuel, God with us. Born in a Bethlehem stable, our Lord’s throne would be a feeding trough. In a nation mourning the tragic loss of life, Christ enters into hopelessness as the hope of world.


Several weeks ago, after praying with my daughter at bedtime, she asked to look at some of her baby pictures on my cell phone until she fell asleep. Scarlett is almost five years old now and she appreciates the moments of reflection on the major milestones of her development. We came across pictures from her first Christmas and she smiled as she scrolled through countless images of decorations and the many gifts under the Christmas tree. As she fell asleep, I knelt beside her bed and prayed that my children would experience an unending joy, inheriting a world where they don’t have to live in constant pandemics–both health and racial.


If ever there was a season for Christians to have the courage to confront the pandemic of racism and injustice, it is during Advent. This season is an opportunity to repent of intolerance, injustice, and racism, and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ who came to stand against the empire of oppression and bring Good News to all people.


Advent challenges us to appreciate a liberating Lord who proclaimed “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free (Luke 4:18).”


We are the vaccine for the pandemic of racial injustice. May we challenge ourselves, our churches, our loved ones, and others to love God and neighbor more and therein, experience the grace and justice of Jesus during the season of Advent.