Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Christian New Year Confession

Slavery

It is a strange topic for Advent, the beginning of the "Christian New Year," set as it is in the blooming hullabaloo of sleigh bells, Christmas cheer, the decking of the halls and fa la la.  At first glance it doesn't seem to have anything to do with what was Away in a Manger one Silent Night, you know, the Greensleeves that drew the attention of Angels We Have Heard on High, We Three Kings, and The Little Drummer Boy (they were a fashion-conscious bunch).  

Be attentive, careful, on your guard...

But maybe it is not so strange a topic after all.  It doesn't take a great deal of imagination to consider the plight of the Jews at the time that Mary and Joseph embarked upon their journey to Bethlehem, an arduous trek even for someone not so great with child, and one not pleasantly anticipated when all it was going to mean was increased taxes and the strengthened rule of a more than moderately paranoid king.

lest your hearts be weighed down...

And maybe it's not so strange a topic for the wee small hours of a new year when we consider what it actually means to be Christian.  Do we not take on this identity only when we come face to face with and confess our failures and shortcomings, when we acknowledge our limitations, sorrows, regrets - our slavery - in the hopes of finding that the Messiah has come, is coming, will come to free us? We're supposed to be anticipating, right?  Anticipating what? What does Messiah mean, anyway?  What does it mean to have God with us?

Watch out or your hearts may be burdened, dulled and desensitized by dissipation, over-indulgence, or the anxieties of life...

Luke 21:34 was the focus of the first Sunday in Advent.  It seemed a little gloomy for the season: Let's talk about heavy hearts!  Depression!  Anxiety!  Drunkenness!  And dissi ... what the heck is dissipation anyway???

Dissipation: (noun) dispersion, disintegration, a wasting by misuse, distraction, amusement, diversion

The pastor happily described it this way:
"Life flattens as we feast on trivialities."
"We are entertaining ourselves to death."

It's a great passage to consider when one is considering slavery.  In fact, it's an opportunity to have our hearts sifted, to recognize our ongoing need of Messiah, to truly long for and anticipate God With Us.  Because we are a society that revolves around feasting on trivialities, over indulgence, and anxiety.

In fact, I wondered as I read the passage if it didn't really capture everything that might enslave the human soul:

Either we give our lives over to the utterly meaningless barrage of constant stimulation until our hearts have lost all ability to experience real pleasure...

Or we plunge ourselves into one great destructive addiction... (or two ... or three)

Or we wallow in the anxious horror of the cares of every day life.

Or any combination thereof, yes?

If that doesn't sound like slavery, I don't know what is.

If that doesn't sound like the place that the very heart of Christianity asks us to start the new year in, then I don't know what Christianity is.

So, let's do this thing.  Let's dig in deep to the burdens of the heart at the start of this new year.  And let's long for Messiah.  Let's press in to the ways we are in slavery on the off chance that our lives might be completely disrupted by hope.

My personal favorite is the last one, the anxieties of life.  I am REALLY good at getting weighed down by those.  Right now I have four papers I should be writing for classes that I actually really enjoy.  But I'm not writing them.  You know why?  Because my heart is heavy.  Because apparently I did not watch out.  I was inattentive at some point and the anxieties of life, they sank their razor-sharp teeth into my precious little heart and they've been pumping it with venom ever since.  The irony is, by NOT writing those stupid papers, they just add their weight to the burdens of my heart.

So here is my Christian New Year Confession: I have been enslaved - and I don't even know how it happened.  My heart is sad and disconnected and burdened.  I long for the Messiah that came once before, that came and freed me from Egypt and brought me to a place that he had prepared for me, that called me his own and invited me to call him My God, My Rescuer, My Kinsman Redeemer, Lifter of My Head, Lover of My Soul, Husband, Friend, Partner, Hope.  This is the place in which I will wait during Advent.  I will choose to be here, to acknowledge my slavery, and to long for Messiah.

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