Let Nothing You Dismay
Originally published in the Greenwich Sentinel on December 2, 2022.
This past Sunday began the annual season of Advent. It also marks the beginning of a new liturgical year in Western Christianity. The word Advent is derived from the Latin word “adventus” which is often translated as “arrival” or “coming.” The word adventus was also used to describe the ceremony held to celebrate an emperor’s formal arrival at a city (usually, but not always, Rome). For Christians, Advent is the beginning of the annual season of celebration of the physical arrival (birth) of Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnation of God (“Emmanuel”), which culminates in the Palm Sunday adventus of Jesus into Jerusalem where he would voluntarily suffer and die and, on Easter Sunday, rise from the dead, forever freeing humanity from the burden of perpetual enslavement to sin.
But unfortunately, not from the continued existence of evil. It takes effort these days to remain blind to events, trends and developments that push us further away from the peace and joy and personal freedom offered by the Great Adventus.
Upon reflection, it appears as if there has been a longstanding and concerted effort to distract us from the meaning and significance of those events so long ago. The doctrine of relativism – which teaches that knowledge, truth and morality exist only in relation to culture, society or historical context, and are thus not absolute – works insidiously to un-anchor our lives from values that have in the past served as foundation for our happiness and success as a society. The Ten Commandments, considered in Judeo-Christian theology to be divinely-promulgated guidance for living a just life, and the basis for much man-made law, are dismissed, derided, covered up and removed from public display as being “too religious” and “offensive” to those of different faith traditions, or of none. And all mention of God has been or is threatened to be removed from our schools and public discourse in attempted compliance with a misinterpretation of the Constitution’s guarantee of “freedom of religion” as “freedom from religion.”
Christian holidays have been hijacked, their religious aspects muted and subordinated to commercialism and the promotion of mascots and themes (Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny). Traditional holiday displays (Christmas trees, Nativity creches) are condemned, vandalized, and removed from public display. And even the familiar greeting ”Merry Christmas” has fallen victim to negative social pressure based on the rationale that it is somehow an act of “micro aggression” hurtful to those who do not share the Christian faith.
And the world is generally in a great big mess. Unlikely a coincidence.
“God is dead,” German philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche’s famous quote, is often used by proponents of the Death of God theology to mean that the Christian God, who had existed at one point, has ceased to exist. But as is often the case (example: Shakespeare’s line “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”), the quote is taken out of context. Nietzsche was referring to how the Enlightenment had contributed to the erosion of religious beliefs, which had long served as a foundational belief system for much of the world. The full quote is as follows:
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
But all is not lost. Hope remains in the Great Adventus. It has not changed; we have merely changed in our perception of it. And that also can change, if we wish it to. This Advent season, let’s listen carefully to the words of some of the songs we’ve long known but perhaps failed to appreciate fully. Here’s a good place to start:
God rest ye merry gentlemen Let nothing you dismay Remember Christ our Savior Was born on Christmas Day To save us all from Satan's pow'r When we were gone astray Oh tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy Oh tidings of comfort and joy!
Wishing everyone everywhere the peace, joy and hope of Advent.