Rosa Parks and the Hope of Advent
The bus driver called for the police. She did not move, but instead sat and waited. She did not invoke violence, neither in word nor in deed. Instead, she sat and she waited some sixty years ago. Rosa Parks would not have to sit and wait for long, though; the police were on their way. When they arrived, they arrested her and took her to prison – not for sitting in the “white” section of the bus as some have mistakenly supposed – she was not a lawbreaker after all. No, the arrest was made because she refused to move back even further than required by law after the white’s only section of the bus became so full that white passengers were forced to stand. At this point, the bus driver came to the first row in the back section reserved for “colored” passengers and demanded that Parks, and three others, move back. The others moved. Rosa Parks sat and waited.
After spending the night in prison, Parks left on bail the next day. On December 5, 1955, a small group of 16-18 people gathered at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church and elected Martin Luther King Jr. as the president of the newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association, a group formed to organize the Montgomery bus boycotts. King would say of Rosa Parks that night on December 5, “Nobody can doubt the height of her character, nobody can doubt the depth of her Christian commitment and devotion to the teachings of Jesus.” Thinking of Parks’ courage, Dr. King would go on in this same speech to rouse and remind an audience of more than 1,000 members of the African American community “tired from being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression,” that:
We are here, we are here this evening because we are tired now. And I want to say that we are not here advocating violence. We have never done that. I want it to be known throughout Montgomery and throughout this nation that we are Christian people. We believe in the Christian religion. We believe in the teachings of Jesus. The only weapon that we have in our hands this evening is the weapon of protest. That’s all.
Rosa Parks, sitting and waiting, with the police on their way, sat in that Montgomery bus seat tired – not from her day’s work as a seamstress, but from resisting injustice day after day. As she waited, she waited expectantly, not for the police to arrive, but for the arrival of injustice’s end. In her sitting and waiting, Rosa Parks inspired the imagination of Dr. King and others to meet at Mt. Zion AME and respond, not with weapons of violence, but with the plowshares of non-violent protest
The season of Advent invites the Christian community, and especially those who lead within it, to sit and wait anew each year. The church grows tired and weary and, therefore, sitting becomes an essential and effective posture – one the church must embrace if it is to go on doing the work of the Kingdom.
The words of Isaiah 2:1-5 invite us to begin this season by sitting and waiting for the day when God comes to Zion – the residence of God’s presence. It invites us to sit and learn God’s way of justice anew. It invites us to lay down our weapons that wound, and to instead lift up healing hands on each other’s behalf.
Most of all, Advent reminds us to remember, that in Jesus’ coming – both in the Incarnation, as well as in his return – that in our sitting and our waiting we have not escaped work, but have instead learned how to work out the injustice we practice against each other.
May we remember during Advent the courage it takes to sit and wait. Rosa Parks could have stood up. She could have moved and avoided the inconvenience of being arrested. Instead, she sat and took her stand against injustice. In her waiting, she joined God’s movement of ushering in days more just than before. May we, in our own day, be so courageous as to sit and wait.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come. We are sitting and waiting.
This post was previously published on taylorhammett.com.