December 1, 2008 marks the 20th year of World AIDS Day commemoration. Although HIV/AIDS affects all communities – people of all races, ethnicities and genders, women of color are disproportionately affected. AIDS is now said to be the leading cause of death for Black women ages 25 to 34.
We have been too silent, too long. Too many – from all of our communities – are dying. Too many of us are losing loved ones. Too much money is being spent on warfare and foolishness. Too little time is spent on caring for each other.
World AIDS Day falls on December 1, on or near the first Sunday of Advent. For Christians, Advent is a time of waiting, a time of preparation. It is a way of journeying toward the event of Christmas, the coming of the Messiah, of God Incarnate.
The following is an excerpt of a piece I wrote and delivered several years ago at a World AIDS Day service, during which participants remembered those who died by lighting candles and speaking their names.
In this, the season of advent, the season of waiting, we recognize that even as we listen to words of comfort and hope, we live in a season of despair.
On this day we remember those who left too early and too painfully
On this day we remember we live in the midst of too much warfare and too little health care
On this day we remember that in this season of giving, too many don’t have enough to even get by.
And yet the prophet speaks down through the ages:
Every valley shall be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
The uneven ground shall become level,
And the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
You are a testament to valleys being lifted up:
Every candle lit is a leveling
Every name remembered is a leveling
Every whispered prayer is a leveling
Every voice of protest is a leveling
We cannot be silent.
May we be like the voice of one crying out in the wilderness
“Prepare the way of the Lord”
Prepare the way of the One who gathers all in, who will not get distracted and leave someone behind
The One who not only sits
the downtrodden, the outcast, the forgotten,
But actually desires their company
As we wait this advent season for the “good word”
The one who has loved us into being
Waits with us
May we be comforted, strengthened and empowered
By the Holy One.