Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 122; 145, Isaiah 1:10-20, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Luke 20:1-8
As a mattress ages, it slowly loses its ability to properly support us. Even though it’s less and less comfortable, it’s familiar so we work with what we’ve got. And while we learn to avoid low spots and bad springs, we wake up a little less refreshed every morning. Eventually, we arrange ourselves to fit the mattress when it’s supposed to be the other way around. Very often we wait until we are physically pained before going to the trouble of getting a new one.
Religion has something in common with a mattress: the very act of inhabiting it, distorts it. During Advent we read from the book of Isaiah because it calls God’s people to look at how they twisted their religion until it no longer supported their once vibrant, living faith. The sacrifices they once made to honor God became an abomination, because the people managed to follow the rules without showing compassion and mercy to the least among them. Over time, the people contorted themselves to rest on the comfortable parts of the law and avoid the harder demands of mercy, all the while failing to realize how seriously they were damaging the spine of their faith.
According to Isaiah, the Jewish people were driven into Babylonian exile, despite ample warnings, because God withdrew his favor. Because Advent is a time for looking both backward and forward, the words of Isaiah should prompt us to reevaluate how we live out our own faith. Are we relying exclusively on rules and ritual? These are not bad things, but alone they do not meet God’s expectations for us to seek justice and rescue the oppressed. It doesn’t take long for us to settle into a routine and forget why we adopted it in the first place. Does our faith practice refresh us to live in love, or does it only equip us to sleepwalk through life?
We can settle for a slowly dilapidating mattress, or we can give a new one a try. Faith doesn’t need to be reinvented, but every so often it does need to be renewed.
Comfort: In the end, renewal is more refreshing than it is inconvenient.
Challenge: This Advent season, look at how you might renew your faith practices. Consider participating in a Reverse Advent Calendar.
Prayer: God of all that is, may I never forget you are the reason for all I do. Amen.
Discussion: What are some habits or practices (religious or otherwise) you have abandoned or reworked because they no longer served a purpose?
Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group or follow @comf_and_chall on Twitter. You’ll have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!