Moltmann Monday: The Hope of the Poor as Advent Hope

Happy Moltmann Monday, and happy first week of Advent! I snagged a passage from The Way of Jesus Christ¬†where he’s dialoguing a bit with the work of Martin Buber, but you don’t need to be familiar with that to get what he’s saying. (I’m just saying it for you nerds who like that sort of thing.) Buber is asking whether God brings the Messiah, or whether God waits for the Messiah, and ponders that it is both. (That’s interesting to think about, right?) Here’s Moltmann’s response:

If we wished to interpret this more actively, we should have to say: thorough his waiting, God lets the messiah come. He allows him his time. Yet the messiah comes in order to prepare the way for God himself, the way to his rest in creation. So the coming of the messiah also expresses ‘the zeal of the Lord’ (Isa. 9:7), not merely his waiting patience…

Who is the subject of the messianic hope? The dialogistic principle is a good one for free people. But free people do not really need a messiah to save them. They can help themselves. But how can ‘the people who dwell in darkness’ create the ‘great light’ all by themselves? How can alienated people beget the messianic human being? The messianic hope was never the hope of the victors and the rulers. It was always the hope of the defeated and the ground down. The hope of the poor is nothing other than the messianic hope.

Okay, first, don’t get thrown by the “dialogistic principle.” He just means Buber’s idea of God both being the one who brings the messiah, and being the one who waits for the messiah to come. Buber doesn’t pick sides, which is intellectually cool and actually right in a lot of ways, but it’s also something only free people really spend their time debating. It’s a little bit navel-gazey, is what he’s saying. Because there are people- people who are NOT free to sit around and ponder things dialogically- who really NEED this messiah to come, ASAP. They need this hope now. They are waiting, and it matters to them what this promise means.

Good news, though: the promise IS for them. It has always been for those who stand not in positions of power but in the shadows of power, those who are forgotten or overlooked. Those for whom justice seemingly does not come, while systems of power and people of luxury can find justice even for their unjust acts. It is for these people that the Messiah comes. And, maybe now that we have that straight, we can see how beautiful it is that even God is waiting for this Messiah to usher in this new reign.

And so, there we go again with our German friend sending us through something so we can return to it again, but in a better way. For Buber is right, but we can’t be navel-gazing when we say it. God brings the messiah to us. But also, and maybe more importantly for those who long for justice and peace in all the broken places in this world, God is waiting, just like you and me, for the messiah to come, and to bring us all into new creation, into redemption, into our lost wholeness.

That’s the promise of Advent. That’s the hope of Christmas. That’s the patience of Jesus followers. God’s waiting with us. Let every heart prepare him room, that one day, heaven and nature may harmoniously sing.


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