Scattered by Persecution
“Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled to Antioch.” – Acts 11:19
One persecution is a lot like another. Somebody with power hurts somebody without power. They may behead or bully or ridicule or rape. They may tear or torment. They may hate simplistic alliteration especially when it could go on forever.
That is persecution’s worst feature: it goes on forever. Once you are beaten up on the street as a gay teenager, you look at streets a different way. Once raped, you look at sex a different way. Once beaten up, you find that you can’t really stay in good enough shape.
Persecution scatters us. We stop trusting authority or shibboleths or naive people. We are also scattered internally. We lose parts of our old self and can’t imagine the wholeness we may have once briefly known. Our lost parts scatter all around, like beads off a broken necklace, rolling, stranded on the floor.
We go on guard. We go on watch. We watch out.
Watching in the Advent sense is a bit different. It is more an alertness for the good than the watching out for the awful.
What amazes about the God/human incarnate one, who comes stealthy like a welcome if unanticipated pregnancy, lies here. The baby was soon persecuted. He also continued to watch with hopeful anticipation rather than hopeless fear. He watched for instead of watching out.
Jesus understands that God finally has all the power. He watches forwards not backwards. He knows the end of the story right from the beginning, as a babe.
Help us learn to watch forward, Spirit, and to anticipate goodness, no matter how much our beads long for their lost string.