For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
— Romans 15:4
There is a magnificent intersection of holidays every year in November and December.
The Thanksgiving holiday we just passed through is all about reflection and gratitude. Properly observed, we look back on our year. We consider the blessings we have received, the tight spots God has delivered us from (or continues to sustain us in), and to remember the One through whom all things come.
The season of Advent is all about looking forward, thinking not just about how God once became a man and lived with us, but how He promised He is coming again. It is a time of hope, realizing that the greatest reason for Thanksgiving is not simply the things that God gives, but that He gives Himself.
What I find so wonderful in this annual intersection of looking back and looking forward is that it encourages us to stop. We need to stop to perform two essentially human functions that demonstrate the image of God in us. We need to take time to rejoice and to reflect.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, the demon Screwtape betrays inverted ethics in his advice to his young demonic tempter. In seeking to turn men from God, their thinking is precisely backward. In the passage below, Screwtape voices his displeasure with rejoicing (expressed in music) and reflection (manifested in silence):
Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end. We have already made great strides in this direction as regards the Earth. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end. But I admit we are not yet loud enough, or anything like it. Research is in progress.
As Lewis powerfully represents in Screwtape’s words, the Devil would love noise and chaos to drown out the joy and the reflective silence of these seasons. We must realize that this is his strategy, and actively protect both the silence and the music. As you fill the calendar with parties and holiday bustle, make sure that you save time to sing and savor. Let’s give God thanks for his provision and draw strength from the hope of His appearing.