Welcome to my newest venture on Theostory. It will consist of daily reflections on readings from the Common Lectionary, using those as windows through which to look on our world. Advent is a time of preparation, not an extended birthday party for Jesus. It is a time for expectation, for reorienting our direction, for repenting of taking those pathways which detract and distract from what God’s intentions are for his ultimate triumph in this world. Christ’s coming is something for which business as usual cannot equip us. We need the reminder His Word provides, so that we may have eyes to see and ears to hear when He comes near; we need faith to look at the world through the lens of His ultimate victory over all the powers and devices that pose as rulers in today’s world. So let us begin by hearing the word of the Lord:
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Lord’s Eternal Covenant with David
14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
The are would-be rulers aplenty in the world of A.D. 2012. We’re familiar with many of them. They by names such as Desire, Self-Fulfillment, Satisfaction, Comfort, Security, and Authenticity. None of them go by the name of Righteousness. That is not to say that none of them know of righteousness; like the prophet, their ear has caught wind of its existence. And they fear as a result. But the fear does not lead them to cower in corners. Instead, they make every effort to appropriate the language of righteousness and turn it toward their own ends. Hence we are offered many justifications for continuing to allow ourselves to be ruled over by these tyrannical rulers, whose demands are never satisfied. The more we are convinced that any of these are what we truly need the more tightly we hold to whatever measure of their promises we believe we have been granted by them.
They are very enticing options in a world that often feels hostile, empty, depriving, dangerous, and false. We even look to earthly governments to secure their benefits for us, sometimes with the force of war, more commonly with legislation, but always as substitutes for that which is truly our hope: the Lord, Our Righteousness. We account things that take away from the provisions of the false rulers to be unrighteous, and the things which secure them to be justice. A toxic political campaign, an impending “fiscal cliff,” renewed tensions in the Middle East, and continued erosion of family cohesion and community life all combine to make us seek solutions anywhere we can find them. Almost always they come at the cost of righteousness for some and justice for all.
But we know all of this. We’ve heard it before, we’ve lived in the culture thus created, and we’ve been poisoned to varying degrees in the process. And sometimes it even hits home. In our longing for something better for ourselves, our families, our churches, communities, and for the world itself, let us return once more to the One who defines righteousness, who is the Way, Truth, and Life. Let us dare to hear and believe that He alone is righteous and just. And let this faith carry us beyond any dependence upon substitute rulers and flattened forms of the good. And if we believe any of this to be true, we must make it our business to learn of Him as deeply as possible. For the more we know of the Lord, the truer will be our ideas of the right and the just.