When Dag Hammarskjold, the Secretary-General of the UN, was killed in a plane crash in Africa in 1961, the two books found in his briefcase were the Bible and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. Even though Thomas à Kempis was a monk in the 14th century, much of what he said can still apply to us today. I appreciate Kempis’ honesty.
The central task of our lives should be to learn to live like Jesus. It can take a long time, our whole lives, but by learning day by day what that means, we are drawing ourselves closer to God. For, like Thomas à Kempis said, we should try to pattern our lives on that of Christ. If we fully want to know how to be a Christian, we must study the life of Jesus. But learning in itself is not enough, we should try to live a life that is pleasing to God. And it’s not easy. We should imitate Christ, while turning away from all the lesser gods; money, comfort etc. We should look at our lives and hope for a well-spent life, not a long or happy life. We can’t put our trust in created things.
“Try, moreover, to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and lose the grace of God.” – The Imitation of Christ
When we choose the visible, instead of the invisible, we are separating ourselves from God. When we choose the lesser gods over God, we are separating ourselves from God. Choosing God might mean seeking God’s comfort in times of stress, instead of trying to comfort ourselves. Maybe it means a prayer, then a grateful thought. If we find ourselves worshipping comfort, then maybe we should try to give up our physical indulgences when we crave them most – times of worry etc. We could try trading our physical indulgences for God’s spiritual peace.
Christmas is often a time of indulging in physical comfort – turkey, chocolate, parties. But maybe this year Advent could be a time when we seek God’s comfort and peace first – regular Scripture reading, prayer, quiet times of devotion. And then bring on the peppermint mochas!