Remember the War


One of the books that kept company with me during the Advent season was Piper’s “Good News of Great Joy.”  It was a sweet guide prompting me to see and to savor Jesus’ glory specifically in His incarnation.  Piper is clear that observing the Advent season + traditions is not a biblical mandate but is simply a tool for meditating on the wonders of the incarnation, God coming to earth in human form, and thereby increasing our worship and enjoyment of Jesus.

I loved how Piper argued for the benefit of observing Advent, even though it is not required, at the outset of his book, and finished it with an exhortation not to worship the tradition of Advent itself.  He reminds that keeping a tradition such as Advent is a religious ritual that was meant to be a shadow pointing us to the substance.  It serves a purpose but ultimately we must set our gaze not on the religious ritual itself, but on the person of Jesus.  See, we are creatures who are bent toward worship, and easily we begin to worship the means of worship, the traditions themselves, instead of the Object.

I love the sharp, quiet, and simple exhortation at the end of Piper’s Advent readings:

“Religious ritual is like a shadow of a great and glorious Person. Let us turn from the shadow and look the Person in the face (2 Corinthians 4:6).  My little children, keep yourselves from (religious) idols (1 John 5:21).”

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There is a war of feelings in me as we close the year, the end of a beautiful and hard year.  As I look at Christmas decorations and begin to tuck them away; as we find our souls missing the habit of Advent readings and longings.  As December closes, I find my soul weary from the constant beckoning of materialism and the endless marketing campaigns to “buy more” and “not to miss this sale.”  My soul is weary from the shallow, empty promises this world gives to satisfy.

I love this quote a fellow blogger shared earlier this week:

“I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in.  I start to love what others love.  I start to call earth ‘home.’  Before you know it, I am calling luxuries ‘needs’ and using my money just the way unbelievers do.  I begin to forget the war.  I don’t think much about people perishing.  Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind.  I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace.  I sink into a secular mindset that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do.  It is a terrible sickness.  And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mindset.”

{Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life}

As we turn toward January, toward a New Year, our hearts are full of resolutions and goals, hopes and dreams.  Let us engage in the work of examination, looking for ways we have grown addicted to the world and to our own flesh, and for ways we can forsake these sins and grow in holiness as blood-bought children of God.  Let’s remember the war we are in, and armor up for it once again.