… excerpted by B. Cox’s sermon by the same name (let me know if you want the link).
There have been many photographs and videos within the last week that depict the longing for
justice for the shooting of Michael Brown. There was one in particular that touched and
challenged me, maybe you saw it too. It is of a 12-year-old African American boy named
Devonte embracing Sergeant Bret Barnum, a veteran police officer who is white, both with tears
streaming down their faces. Moments before the photo was taken, this is what took place:
As the protest was occurring, “[Devonte] trembled holding a Free Hugs sign as he bravely
stood alone in front of the police barricade. … After a while, [Sgt. Barnum] approached him and
extended his hand. Their interaction was uncomfortable at first. … [Then] he asked Devonte
why he was crying. His response about his concerns regarding the level of police brutality
towards young black kids was met [by the police officer] with an unexpected and seemingly
authentic response. , ‘Yes,’ he said and sighed. ‘I know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’ The officer then
asked if he could have one of his hugs.” And they then embraced.
My prayer is that we won’t miss the potential in this glimmer of hope between Devonte and
Sergeant Barnum, and those that emerge in other places. That we also won ’t allow images like
these to allow us to settle, to come to the conclusion that reconciliation has happened. For we
know that beyond this picture that racism is not over. When Jesus calls us to keep awake, we
cannot stay idle, we cannot call for the arrival of justice without our own participation in its
coming. What this photo serves as is a mirror of our hope and a beginning place to challenge
ourselves into participating into its coming.
…So this Advent, as we settle into the apocalypse of our own time, humanity’s
search for hope continues trudging through racism/ classism/ and other systems of distorted
power, along with our own individual experiences of loss, brokenness, and darkness. When we
hear the words of Jesus telling us to “Keep Awake” and to “Be Ready” for a hope that is to come,
it is possible that we might be fed up with hearing the same story of struggle, and we have
moved on to the instant gratification commercialized Christmas gives us.
Except if we are honest, we know the Christmas fanfare is not enough on its own to give birth to
the hope that we so desperately long for, for the hope that will transform. For out of struggle
comes transformation. This has to be our first stop on this journey of Advent, it only makes