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Distracting Messiahs

30 November, 2009

Yesterday marked the season of Advent, which begins the celebration of the coming of the Child-king and Messiah, Jesus Christ. But three days before the beginning of Advent, many people in the United States have already started worshipping their messiahs—all the various forms of consumerism and entertainment. In his fascinating book, The Wages of Spin, Carl Trueman gets at the reason why people are so caught up with entertainment. He writes,

Distraction is the production of entertainment for the purpose of taking one’s mind off the deeper realities of life (p. 177).

Both in and out of the Church, people create messiahs and adore them in order to distract themselves from the most pressing question that Christmas would otherwise make them face. That question has to with the ultimate meaning of life and the cold reality that everyone will die. But denial makes life so much easier, does it not? As the cliché goes: ignorance is bliss. It is so much easier to sit around and numb ourselves with self-congratulation and self-worship. The messiahs, whom we want, are the ones who save us from deep thought. We want saviors that help us sidestep the most important things in life. After all, if we lessen our need for a savior, then we can find equally pathetic and mind-debilitating saviors. If my real problem is boredom, then someone please just buy me a PS3 to stop the pain; but if my problem is sin, death, and the wrath of God against my sin, then I am going to need something that money cannot buy.

Last night I heard a sermon on Matthew 2 about the Child-king who would come to rescue people from their sins and death (Matt. 1:21). The Gentile (ancient astronomers and readers of dreams) came from the East to Israel to pay homage to this newborn King. Eventually finding their way to Bethlehem, they offered kingly gifts to the Child. They spent not only their time but also their money on this child. What a phenomenal act of worship and praise! Instead of numbing their senses to the very visible star in the western sky, they went in search for the King of Israel. Unlike the Jewish scholars of the Scriptures, the magi were more sensitive to the messianic prophesies. Instead of ignoring the Star like the Jews, we should follow the magi to Bethlehem. This Advent season, we should consider to whom we owe honor and praise. But more than that, we should consider calling attention to the Light of the world, the Star who is more dazzling and true than all the false idolatry that surrounds us.

This Infant-king deserves our adoration, but he deserves it in a way that is backed by real cash and real time. Perhaps we should use this distracting season not only to call ourselves but also close friends and family to think deeply about our need for salvation from sin and misery, instead of reinforcing and augmenting our false and distracting messiahs. What I am asking all of us to do this Advent is to stop worshiping ourselves and to bow down to the only King that matters, to reflect deeply on our faith. Stop entertaining yourself with thoughtless activities. Instead read that book that you always wanted to. Maybe read John Murray’s book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Have that long talk with a close friend or family member that you have been avoiding. When the opportunity presents itself, defend your faith in this Child.



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