By Mitch Kim
Black Friday. Cyber Monday. It is ironic that the humble act of Thanksgiving is followed by a mad consumption of more stuff. But maybe it is not so ironic. We are an indulgent people — we indulge our physical appetites at Thanksgiving and our consumer appetites soon after; we are an indulgent culture. Yet stuffing ourselves just leads to stomach aches! The church is to be a counter-culture, and this season, Advent, is a season of longing — longings that cannot be satisfied with pumpkin pie or a shiny new gadget. Instead we are a people who long for the coming of Jesus, and these longings are expressed in prayerful dependence and generous giving to the least of these.
Such longings are expressed poignantly by Abraham Lincoln. He proclaimed a National Day of Prayer and Fasting after the catastrophe of the Civil War. He said:
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!*
What was true in the 1863 is true today. We have, indeed, forgotten God. Our leaders lock horns in a never-ending blame game to win another election, and we citizens easily indulge the blessings of abundance without longing for the inbreaking of the Kingdom of our Messiah.
As we shift from Thanksgiving to Advent, may we not forget God in a mad pursuit for more stuff. Instead let us long for the coming of Jesus in glory. We live in one of the most prosperous periods of all of human history. To whom much is given, much is required. May we shift our attention from indulgence to prayerful dependence. On our knees, let us call upon the living God to have mercy and heal our land. Let us confess that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him.
May we also move from a critical posture of the corruption in the world to a constructive engagement with the needs of our own community. At Wellspring this Advent we are collecting clothing for the most needy in our own community through Christmas Sharing in Warrenville. We are also giving to provide Bibles for immigrants at the South Asian Friendship Center in Chicago and a church building in France with our brothers and sisters there. These are only two small ways that we are engaging the needs together; we are engaged in countless more each day together as well.
As we move into Christmas season, we think of giving gifts. Yet as we consider gifts to give to our loved ones, let us not neglect to give a gift for Jesus. How do we give to Jesus? In Matt 25:40, Jesus says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (NIV). May we pray humbly and give generously in this season, longing for the return of Jesus in glory.
* A fuller exposition of Abraham Lincoln’s call in light of Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s work is found in Robert George, “Solzhenitsyn’s Prophecy” (First Things, June 11, 2018); accessed https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/06/solzhenitsyns-prophecy.