Week 2 of Advent | Todd Lake
Monday, December 10
Why would God need to take on human flesh and come to earth? No other religion imagines such an undertaking being the kind of thing God would want to do, or need to do. For no other faith thinks that our situation is so hopeless that such a thing would be necessary. No other faith imagines that the God who created the cosmos would enter so fully into the suffering of humanity.
Today’s passage comes from the very first piece of the New Testament ever written, the letter to the Thessalonians. Long before the gospels or other New Testament letters, the Apostle Paul wrote to a tiny band of new, mostly Jewish, followers of Jesus so that they would “encourage one another and build each other up.” They were facing persecution. Paul knew that he and they were daily confronting the question: is living in and for Christ absolutely necessary for everyone—from their Jewish family members to Caesar himself? Just as pressing was the existential question: is following Christ worth the sacrifice of reputation and job and perhaps life itself? Is there some other way to be reconciled to God, forgiven for one’s sins, and empowered to live in loving defiance of a world bent on destruction?
The contrasts presented in 1 Thessalonians 5.1-11 could not be more stark. Living apart from Christ is portrayed as living like a person who is “drunk” and “asleep” and sitting “in darkness.” It is a picture of an alcoholic passed out at night, “without hope or God,” as Paul writes elsewhere. Our situation is so dire that we can do nothing to make it better.
Christ has come so that “we may live together with him.” Life lived in and for Christ is marked by knowing that we are “children of light.” At Advent, we celebrate the coming of the “light that shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not overcome it.” Like those in a 12-step program, we go from reeling about in our own delusions to becoming “sober.” At Advent we hear again in the stirring work of J.S. Bach, “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme!”—“Wake up, the Voice is calling us!” We no longer sleepwalk through life, in dull conformity to the thoughtless ways of this world. Advent calls us to be fully “awake” in and for Christ.
Vice President, Spiritual Development
To download a digital copy of the 2012 Advent Guide, put out by Belmont’s School of Religion, click here.