Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent, Day 5: People Get Ready

The haughtiness of people shall be humbled,
   and the pride of everyone shall be brought low;
   and the Lord alone will be exalted on that day.
The idols shall utterly pass away.
Turn away from mortals,
   who have only breath in their nostrils,
   for of what account are they? 

- Isaiah 2:17-18, 22

What are your idols? You'll have to give them up, you know. All the things that you place between yourself and God ... they'll all have to go.

Many people idolize money and possessions, thinking that storing up enough material things will protect us from discomfort. We might give more honor to those who are rich, figuring that somehow they deserve it.

Others idolize safety and security. If we can just keep the bad people at bay with our guns and razor wire and home security systems, we won't have to suffer. If we can just keep bad nations in subservience to us, we can build a greater nation than all the others. How about the safety and security of our emotions? Don't hurt my pride or question my competence!

Perhaps you idolize fame and honor. You may want people to hear your voice in particular and recognize the knowledge and expertise you possess. Tied to this is the idol of authority and authoritarianism. Humans who have the most power are able to tell us what to do, so we won't have to think about it too hard.

Sexual gratification can also be an idol. People who have affairs or who get hooked on pornography fall into this trap, and it can be an addictive one. A related trap is that of fine food and fancy restaurants. Or how about thrilling experiences of novelty in general, as if expensive new experiences will entertain us into a joyful life?

Sometimes I idolize technology, and I guess that's a form of possession worship. I'm typing this on a brand-new laptop that I'll be spending a lot of time with. It's wonderful and amazing. And often it's a distraction from spending time with God.

That's what all of these really are, you know: distractions. They are for the purpose of numbing. We do these things to protect ourselves from the full realization that God is at the center of our lives. True joy is to be found not in any of these things above (though many of them are helpful or actually wonderful in moderation), but in loving God and loving each other. We are not to live somber lives, but joyful lives. And so often we are blind to the places where true joys may be found.

Here are two versions of a great song--the original by Curtis Mayfield, and a great cover from the 1980s by Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart.

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