We are in the midst of Advent again and I am learning anew how to anticipatorily long for a more just, loving world—a world that is both already and not yet here. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Advent overlaps with “16 Days against Gender-based Violence,” an international campaign that affirms women and girls’ right to a dignified life without violence. For if this is a season of realizing how much we need the light, we first have to slow down and sit with the darkness.
As my eyes adjust to the Advent candlelight, the patterns of darkness become scarily clearer—girls attacked by street harassers, women ignored by the courts when they suffer abuse, pushed down memories of verbal and spiritual manipulation, the newspaper headlines that crow over all the pain.
In her profound reflections on Advent, Micky ScottBey Jones writes, “So often Advent is explained as a season of hushed, joyful, expectancy, like a child waiting to open shiny presents under the Christmas tree. We acknowledge the darkness, but try to scramble past it for light as soon as possible.”
I cannot scramble past the darkness this year, so I am looking for signs of God’s presence in the darkness, yearning and wrestling through evidence that God is liberating this world and turning it upside down.
That’s how I ran into your stories again after so long. You all, the five named women in Jesus’ ancestry, have experiences with marginalization and violence that were common in your times and in ours. And though I am no Bible scholar, I see in you sparks of God’s presence in affirming the life and dignity of women:
You held the powerful accountable to a law greater than themselves.
You prophesied of a new kingdom to come despite state and personal violence against yourselves and those you loved.
When you had to rescue yourself from a vulnerable situation, you were called the “more righteous” one, over the lauded, wealthy man in your story.
After losing economic and familial security, you faithfully pledged yourself to a bosom female relative. Then for that love you journeyed with her across borders, over mountainous terrain and into the unknown, for approximately seven to ten days.
The scars in your lives could not take away from your new names of “virtuous woman” and “woman of valor.”
Most importantly, you believed you were included in the promise of a coming one who would restore all that was broken. You believed you were not forgotten, and despite social ostracization, you knew, “I am not wrong/wrong is not my name.” That is the reason why, in the midst of a social context where women’s words were close to worthless, Mary could so confidently declare in the Magnificat,
“From this day all generations will call me blessed…
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.”
I will be waiting with this declaration for the rest of the season, with the fervent hope that every generation of women and girls is heir to this promise of justice.
Comfort Sampong’s heart is sparked by fried plantains, tropical foliage and the stories of women thriving and creating a way out of no way. She graduated in 2018 with majors in economics and international development. Now she lives in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where she works on English communications for the Association for a More Just Society, a Honduran non-profit fighting for justice and peace.