Week 1 of Advent | Steve Guthrie

Friday, December 7

Psalms 16, 17, 22
Isaiah 3.8-15
Luke 20.41-21.4
1 Thessalonians 4.1-12

Advent is an invitation to enter into the revolutionary and counter cultural act of delight. During advent we have the opportunity to announce who we are as Christians, precisely by obeying the high and holy call to pleasure. The wonderful surprise is that delight turns out to be one of the most significant expressions of our faith; particularly in a world that promises “good apart from” God.

In Psalm 16, David forcefully rejects these false promises. He sets himself apart from those “who choose another god,” and insists: “their drink-offerings of blood I will not pour out.” The main thrust of David’s response, however, is not an angry refusal of false worship. Instead, the psalm focuses on drinking all the more deeply from what is good: “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup.” David declares his allegiance through the radical and uncompromising practice of delight: “Apart from You I have no good thing.” “Surely I have a delightful inheritance.” “My heart is glad and my tongue rejoices.” “In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.”

The philosopher Jamie Smith suggests that the fundamental identity of humanity is “homo liturgicus” –the being who engages in worship. While beliefs and ideas matter, Smith argues that above all, we are shaped by our loves (Here Smith is echoing the great theologian Augustine). It is what we honor, what we delight in, what causes us to rejoice, that forms us most deeply. For just this reason the season leading up to Christmas can be a dangerous time. Our culture of consumption simultaneously inflames and trivializes desire and delight. We are urged, over and over again, and in many different ways, to locate our delight somewhere false—in a place where there is something less than “fullness of joy.”

In response, perhaps the most radical statement we can make is to sing: “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” During Advent, we undertake the revolutionary duty of delight.

“Come, Thou long expected Jesus;
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.”

Steve Guthrie
Associate Professor, School of Religion

To download a digital copy of the 2012 Advent Guide, put out by Belmont’s School of Religion, click here.

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