Something was always happening in the Galilee – a military action, a protest, a confrontation provoked by local rebels. It was a region rife with resistance. The villages that dotted the undulating terrain refused to easily accept the Roman occupation. An incessant back and forth between the punishing imperial forces and the homegrown freedom fighters left a trail of dead men, enslaved children, and abused women. Because the empire did not easily accept rebellion, either.
This is the kind of landscape that shaped the likes of Ahed Tamimi in Nabi Saleh in the West Bank. In a village that experienced almost daily acts of violence resulting in maimed, jailed, and even dead family members, this young girl and her siblings grew up with the realities of occupation. Their family home was under a demolition order for years, and soldiers regularly raided their house in the night. Her parents organized weekly protests against the Israeli soldiers and the Jewish settlers encroaching on their land. They modeled resistance for her. In the face of soldiers and settlers alike, you fight back. And one day she did. She had enough of the loss and injustice and she slapped a soldier standing in her front yard. Her image was painted on the Separation Wall in in Bethlehem and beamed across the world, making her an icon of resistance before she was even an adult.
It is fair to say that her life in the West Bank under occupation shaped her sensibilities and made her who she was in that moment — and for the rest of her life. One might wonder if growing up in Galilee had a similar effect on young Mary. Formed by Galilee, a witness to occupation and the fight against it, she was likely no shrinking violet. Instead of a slap, she responded with a song. Perhaps she took after her namesake, Miriam of Exodus, and composed songs for the freedom movement she and her neighbors were part of in their village. Maybe the Magnificat was not her only song.
When we consider that first advent and Mary as part of the resistance movement of her day, given her geography, we can see another angle of her strength. She resisted injustice that impinged upon her and her community. She refused to accept the presence of Romans in her homeland – the tribute paid to Caesar that was an economic drain on her neighbors, the land confiscations robbing too many families of their God-given home, and the daily humiliations of living as a subjugated people. She knew this was not right according to Torah or any other standard of decency. And so she sang.
When we see injustice at home or abroad, may it move us like it moved Mary. May we resist all forms of discrimination, oppression, and harassment. May we advocate for the vulnerable ones in our communities – those who struggle with food insecurity or live with inadequate housing or try to survive on the underside of our economy. Let’s see the systemic injustices and address them for our neighbor, and for our own well-being, too. May we recognize those who are victims of oppression, like those in Gaza, the West Bank, and in refugee camps throughout the region. We can become activists for justice, working in solidarity with them for a future peace.
No one expected a girl from Galilee to step into God’s liberation story. And maybe no one expects us to show up and enter into God’s peace campaign. But like Mary, let’s do it anyway. Wherever we are from and however we’ve been formed, let’s determine to join God’s way of peace that reverses the expected violence of every empire.
Author Kelley Nikondeha is a practical theologian hungry for the New City. She is the co-director and chief storyteller for Communities of Hope, a community development enterprise in Burundi. Kelley is the theologian in residence for SheLoves Magazine. Her latest book is “The First Advent in Palestine: Reversals, Resistance, and the Ongoing Complexity of Hope”. Find out more about Kelley’s work on her website: https://kelleynikondeha.com/.
CMEP’s first Advent Devotional Book: In addition to our usual Advent Devotionals, CMEP is pleased to have partnered with author Kelley Nikondeha to create a devotional book entitled “The First Advent: Embodying God’s Peace Plan” that is available for purchase for you or your church group. This devotional book contains devotionals for each Sunday of Advent, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as Alternative Advent Practices written by members of CMEP’s staff. Click here to purchase
CMEP is very thankful for those writers who contribute Spiritual Resources. However, CMEP does not necessarily agree with all the positions of our writers, and they do not speak on CMEP’s behalf.