December, 2021 Monthly Reflection

Embracing the Radical Hope of Advent

By Jennifer Reyes Lay, Executive Director of AEHT

Focusing on the reality of human trafficking and working to end it as my full-time job, I am frequently asked by people, “How do you do it? How are you able to face such evil every day and not grow hopeless or discouraged?” For me, the gifts and wisdom of the Advent season hold a key piece of my answer. I believe in the radical hope and promise of a God who chose to incarnate into the world, to enter into the joys and sorrows of humanity, and whose presence continues to permeate creation as they work towards the promised kin-dom of justice, dignity, equity, and freedom. I believe that our vision of a world without trafficking and exploitation is possible because it is God’s vision too. This radical hope in the face of violence and injustice that is so present in the Scripture readings of the Advent season, this is what keeps me going year-round.

It is true that it is difficult to think about the fact that at this moment there are millions of people around the world who are suffering great violence and exploitation as victims of human trafficking. And it is much more difficult for those who are actually living that current reality. But facing this harsh reality should not discourage us, but rather motivate us to take action. Part of the reality of the ongoing incarnation of God and Christ in the world means that we are now called, as the Body of Christ, to continue incarnating – making real and tangible – the promise of God’s justice in the world through our lives, words, and actions. We are no longer waiting around for someone else to come and make things better. Rather, we join together, each doing the work we are called to do, to be the light in the darkness and execute justice and righteousness.

The lighting of the Advent wreath over the next four weeks offers us an opportunity to nourish our own radical hope and faith as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Emmanuel – God with us. The first week of Advent focuses on Hope. Where do you find hope in your particular life and circumstances today? What is the promise of God in which your hope resides? How can you continue to nurture this hope in you beyond the Advent season? How might hope support you in your own anti-trafficking advocacy?

The second week of Advent focuses on Love. What does true love look like in a world that often uses false promises of love to exploit and abuse another human being? How might the call to love ourselves and love our neighbors inspire us to take action to end human trafficking and support survivors? How can the deep love of God nurture and sustain us in this work? How can we make time to remember the great love that holds us and protects us always?

The third week of Advent focuses on Joy. It might seem strange, but I actually find a lot of joy in my work to end human trafficking and support survivors. I rejoice every time we are able to inspire another person to take action. I rejoice in the community that surrounds me who holds this same vision of a world without trafficking. I find joy in the lives of survivors who are healing and thriving despite the horrors they have endured. We get to find joy in difficult work and difficult circumstances, and we get to celebrate every little victory. Where do you find joy in difficult circumstances? How might you make intentional time to celebrate and give thanks as an act of resistance to despair?

The fourth week of Advent focuses on Peace. We are reminded that peace and justice go hand in hand. Without justice, there can be no true peace. Human trafficking is a grave injustice and perpetuates violence against the Body of Christ. How can our call to follow in the footsteps of the Prince of Peace inspire and sustain us in our work to end human trafficking and support survivors? How do we take time to nurture our own inner peace in order to be peace in the world? What would it look like to see peace and justice reign in our world?

I invite you to use this season of waiting in radical hope, to nourish and inspire you in your own work and commitment to end human trafficking. Do not grow weary. Do not grow discouraged. God is ever-present and always coming into the world anew, working with us to realize this vision of the beloved community, where dignity is uplifted and true love abounds. May we speak with the faith of Mary in our own Yes! to God’s invitation to be part of this holy work.