Advent Devotional — Thursday, December 20

December 20, 2007, 9:00 am; posted by
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Thursday, December 20, 2007
Enlighten, Lord, and set on fire
Our spirits with Your love,
That dead to earth they may aspire
And live to joys above.
” (Adapted from The Short Breviary, from the Vespers Office in The Divine Hours)

Dying to earth is heavy language. The hymn (and the Scripture that inspired it) does not encourage us to co-exist with the world, or to critique the world; it says to die to it. What does it mean to die to the world?

We often forget that sin is not just a personal choice, but a deeply ingrained reality of human life. Suppose you live in a town where the only grocery store is operated by a man who is known to abuse his wife and family. Should you shop there and support this man or not? This man’s sinful behavior puts the rest of the town in a bind, where no action is really “right” — you hate to put money in the man’s pockets, but you hate to put his family at further risk by not supporting him. Further, you have the dilemma of how exactly you’re going to get your food if you don’t support him. One man’s sin means that the whole town has to reckon with his sin and choose the lesser of several evils.

If you look at the world in this way, you will soon sense something of the enormity of sin and the impossibility of “solving” it, humanly speaking. We cannot root sin out of the world simply because, like the grocer above, its present reality ensures its future reality. As long as one person is sinning, we all will be pushed into sinning. “As sin entered into the world through one man…” said Paul, and we can see how that is the case.

Part of what we must do as Christians is to die to this reality. To the extent possible, we should “opt out” of such a death-dealing culture. This is not to say we become total separatists, and live our lives in total denial of the earthly world in which we live. But it is to say that we are self-conscious about our way of life as being separate and incompatible with a sinful world.

We do this when we create and strengthen our churches to be little outposts of the Kingdom of God, little places where the Way of Christ is followed and there are different rules. We do not deny there is sin in our midst, but rather than blindly following a culture where sin is an established fact, we seek to be different. We seek to lay aside one way of living completely for another.


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