You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, will, and mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
This summation of the law from Jesus is our guide this Advent. This last week I preached about re-orienting the heart through thinking about dying, being attentive for one minute to each person you are with, and to be seriously disciplined in joy.
You might be wondering about the dying bit. I have found that simply knowing that you could die tomorrow clarifies what is really important. Even on Black Friday. Try it.
This practice is really tied deeply to Christian hope. We know where we are going because we have seen Jesus. That hope allows us to sit quietly with death and to do what we are called to do without fear.
Christ is calling us to love God with all our heart; though for some of us, loving God is too abstract at first, so being attentive to our neighbor is a good place to start.
We live distracted. So this makes a great Advent practice. When someone is with you, put down your device, turn toward them, and just pay attention. Love is powered by attention.
And get into some joy. Joy comes from God. It isn’t strictly happiness, but rather “1: a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety. 2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss.” So says Mr. Merriam-Webster.
I think that joy is an eternal attribute, like beauty or truth or goodness. It is not mere happiness connected to a thing or event, but the welling up of some delight in the eternal pushing through into life, and it can come in spite of things and events.
Joy is not to be taken lightly, but practiced. You have to attend to the ways God shows up in life and then focus and delight in those ways, even when those ways are not obviously happiness producing. (See exercise 2 above.)
On Sunday we turn to the psyche or soul. Soul is only used a couple hundred times in the Bible. Heart was used over a thousand. The soul is used like we would say “self” in English today. It is that part of us that is individual, unique, your self.
How do we orient the self during Advent? I will tell you that as hope orients the heart, so love orients the self.
A heart without hope is a night without end, and a self without love is hell. But more about that next week.
Remember this week’s homework: be disciplined to sing loudly, eat pleasurable food, and watch old movies.
He is coming,