There is a part of us that avoids exile; there is another part of us that is attracted to it. We are attracted to it because it has a way of shattering our illusions. As Jesus puts it in yesterday’s Advent reading, people did not go out to the wilderness to hear John the Baptist on account of his fashion sense or because he was society’s yes-man — they went out because he was a prophet and would, much like the harsh wilderness, destroy their illusions without mercy. We like this because it is something we spiritually need, but we should beware lest such things become a spiritual high that offers variation from our otherwise selfish lives. The real question is not whether we went to the desert to see him, but whether our hearts are still in sympathy with his when his head is on a platter.
For the next 23 days, I will be posting reflections on Christmas and Christmas culture as a way of counting down Advent. My posts will orbit about two themes: the primary reason for Christmas, the coming of Immanuel (God with us); and the odd and bizarre way that Christmas culture relates to this advent. These posts are informed by G.K. Chesterton’s analysis of Christmas and Dickens. See Chesterton on Christmas in my notes, from his biography of Dickens.
Next in the series: The Gift of Breath