The Common Good

My Advent Calendar: December 12

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Following on the theme of the last two windows, Dec. 12 on the Advent calendar opened to a picture of an ox with a book-the symbol of the gospel of Luke.

The ox, a strong and sturdy creature, represents work. Unlike Matthew, who wrote of the kingdom of God, Luke is concerned with how Jesus' followers live in the kingdom of Caesar. Indeed, the story begins with "a priest named Zechariah," who was busy going about his duty-a fellow just doing his job-when the angel of the Lord appeared to him. Throughout the gospel, Luke writes of regular people-fishermen, tax collectors, soldiers, farmers, housekeepers, servants, and slaves-doing their business and trying to act honestly and faithfully in tough circumstances.

And Jesus cares about them. With working people as primary characters in the book, Jesus is concerned with ethics. According to Harold Attridge of Yale Divinity School, "In Luke, Jesus emerges primarily as a teacher of ethical wisdom . . . . Someone who is very much interested in inculcating the virtues of compassion and forgiveness among his followers." He is interested in fair wages, taxes, inheritance, good management, lost coins, sound investment, and equal distribution of resources. Or, as Jesus says simply, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled."

As I write these words, Republican senators have just killed the bailout for the auto industry. I can't say that I love Detroit; nor can I say that I like government bailouts. But I do care about workers (partly because I am one!) and, like Sen. Harry Reid, I believe that failing to invest in American car companies will result in deepening the recession, increasing unemployment, and some very rough times in the stock market.

Why did the senators do this? Evidently, they wanted to break the unions protecting American workers and were unwilling to compromise when they could not force unions to cut their workers' salaries. The senators wanted a pay cut for people who make $26 an hour! (Where were these same senators when Wall Street bankers and CEOs were making $26 million a year?) They elevated their anti-labor views over the interests of regular folks. With millions of Americans out of work, and millions facing the loss of their homes, this is not the time for cherished ideologies to guide politics. This is a time for shoulders to the plough, to serve the poor and workers.

Thus, in the giving spirit of the holidays, I offer these words from Luke the Ox to the senators who clearly have not read his gospel:

From anyone who takes away your coat, do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:29-31).

Oh, and don't forget "Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation."

Merry Christmas.

Diana Butler BassDiana Butler Bass (www.dianabutlerbass.com) wanted to open her Advent calendar in community this year, and she is sharing her daily reflections with Sojourners readers online. She is the author of the forthcoming A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (March 2009).

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