Living Honorably This Advent
posted on November 25
Living Honorably This Advent
The night is far spent, and the day is at hand…
-Romans 13:12 (KJV)
The New Testament never fails me when it comes to practical wisdom about living in the real world. In my personal, professional, and prophetic mining of the scriptures, I have found both comfort and perspective. By studying scripture, we move from a focus upon our own temporal values to a glimpse of eternal values, what we might call the “long view” of God’s work in all of history.
I find myself in Romans 13, where the topic is “being subject to the governing authorities.” Scripture asserts that we pay “taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.” (Romans 13:7) The chapter goes on to remind us to love one another, gives a gentle review of the commandments, and especially reminds us of our high calling to love our neighbor as ourselves.
It’s the conclusion of this chapter that grips me as Advent begins:
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment
for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now
than when we became believers;
the night is far gone, the day is near.
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and
put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day,
not in reveling and drunkenness,
not in debauchery and licentiousness,
not in quarreling and jealousy.
Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
~ Romans 13:11-13 (NRSV)
2020 has been a tiresome, fleshly, divided year. We moved from an intensity of caring (Remember the kindness of March and April? That was nice!) to the deepest anger and division I have witnessed in my lifetime. As we moved inward, we began to brood. We also began to divide. As pondering a gestalt image, our brains rush to make sense of our world, to see what we want to see, and disregard the other perspective – even though it is just as real.
None of us is without guilt in this matter; most of us have had at least one unkind thought about our fellow man in 2020. As Paul writes a few chapters earlier in Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift…” (Romans 3:23) From a Christian point of view, we are all offered the gift of forgiveness. This forgiveness is offered to you, and also to the person whose viewpoint you cannot fathom.
Now comes Advent, the season of welcoming the healing dawn of Christ. It is a time for the star to rise, for us to wake up, stretch, and even be a little startled; it is time to “go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15) “Shepherds quake at the sight,” (Silent Night, v.2) and the world awakens to the event that heralds our salvation. As Christians, we do not look to other world events to ever surpass its significance.
What will Advent 2020 look like for you? My prayer is that it is not simply a (masked or online) quest for gifts, wrapping paper, and groceries. A new day is now at hand, as Paul writes. His urgent appeal is to awaken; he insists that we are aware of “what time it is.” The time for quarreling is over for those who need to make room for Christ Jesus.
The Letter to the Romans calls us to stop judging, to quit the quarrelling, and even to radically die to self and to dear opinions. That’s a high calling, especially in 2020. While our own national circumstances are indeed challenging, Christ’s light has risen on broken empires, schisms, plagues, crusades, World Wars, Holocausts, and myriad injustices for millennia, and will rise upon and over them until he comes again. His Advent transforms us, and we in turn are called to transform the world.
Advent is God’s big “wake-up call” for humanity. It is God’s insistence that beyond our own willfulness, beyond our own deeply (and dearly) held opinions, there is a bigger truth. God loves us enough to bring that Truth into the world. My prayer for you is that you would receive the gift that is coming, and that the brilliant miracle of incarnation would cause you to lift your heads high with anticipation and awareness. What does “the armor of light” look like on you? May you shine as your wear it, and as you look towards Christmas morning.
I am with you, and I wait with you.