It is easy to get stuck in Luke’s grand and glorious vision of advent, and to find that kind of advent activism to be the whole story. But there’s a great example of what is meant and it can be found in Matthew 2. I quote the whole chp in the extra text below.
Here is what Mary meant and here is what Zechariah meant when they spoke of an unjust ruler. They at least had in mind Herod the Great. He was a corrupt, murderous, savage, merciless king and he was on the throne in Jerusalem.
And Messiah Jesus was destined to rule above and beyond Herod the Great. Not as a result of violence; not as a result of usurping the throne through military victory … but through a kingdom of a completely different order: through compassion, through love, through self-denial, through the cross, through the power of the resurrection, and through a community that would surround and follow Jesus. On top of this, the family of Jesus would have to manuever around this corrupt leader … escaping his clutches by fleeing to Egypt. He would attract to himself people from the far reaches of the Roman empire.
An advent activist works against such rulers — in all kinds of ways.
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 ” ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’ “
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He
sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the
child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On
coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they
bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and
presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The Escape to Egypt
they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get
up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay
there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to
kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where
he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord
had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious,
and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had
learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
The Return to Nazareth
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and
said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of
Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But
when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his
father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream,
he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and
he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was
said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”