Christmas is a week away. The stress level is getting a tad high. We long for just a few comfortable moments. Actually living in comfort seems way out of reach.
There is the front burner stuff:
Or maybe it is the opposite front burner stuff:
- no money to shop with
- nobody to wrap a present for
- no food to cook
- not invited to the party.
And of course there is unrelated stuff on the back burner:
- the empty seat at the holiday table
- the feared diagnosis
- the business teetering on the brink.
And then we hear the promise of the prophet Isaiah. We hear it read in church. We hear it in music, whether in the Advent hymn or Handel’s “Messiah.” Over and over comes the promise:
“Comfort, O comfort my people,
says your God.” (Isaiah 40:1)
We hear it — but it can be really hard to feel it.
The comfort we long for is actually the main subject matter of the Heidelberg Catechism. (I’ve been blogging about this influential Reformed summary of biblical Christianity all year in honor of its 450th anniversary. See the posts here.)
Its most loved and most quoted line is the first of its 129 questions:
1 Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
Excellent question. It would be interesting to run a survey across our culture.
Some seek comfort in a loving marriage, a secure job, a well-funded 401(k).
And, truth be known, we often seek comfort in ways ranging from the shallow to the harmful
- the familiar TV show or video game
- a quick check of our Facebook or Twitter feeds
- the next fix of our favored addiction or compulsion.
But it doesn’t work. Things that bring comfort to outer lives don’t even begin to touch our souls. The shallow or compulsive comforts leave us emptier than before.
The Heidelberg Catechism’s answer to the question of comfort starts deep inside with what is most lasting:
A. That I am not my own, but belong — body and soul, in life and in death — to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. …
There is more in the answer, but this is the crucial thing from which everything else flows. Comfort in this life comes from living under new ownership.
And it is counter-cultural, isn’t it? We start out convinced that independence and autonomy are the best way. We are ready to “live free or die.” We just need to “find ourselves,” “be true to ourselves,” find “our own truth” and “make our own way.”
Christian faith starts in a totally different place: we surrender ownership of our lives.
- Rather than being independent, we depend on God’s care.
- Rather than being autonomous, we follow God’s way.
- Rather than “live free or die” we belong, body and soul, to Christ
This new ownership — giving in to belonging to the One who made us in the first place — is what brings real freedom and real comfort.
In or out of the holiday season, a lot of us find comfort hard to find. The deep down bedrock comfort of Christian faith comes because we belong to Someone who is wise enough and good enough to be trusted with everything — every hard time in this life; every unknown of the next life.
Where are you finding comfort in this stressful season? I hope you’ll leave a comment.
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