Perhaps it is the mini-class on rappers and religion I took a couple of winters ago at Montreat, or my overuse of the “Top Hits” album on Spotify this semester, but this passage from Matthew cannot stop reminding me of the chart-topping song “Jesus in LA” released by Alec Benjamin this year. Even though the artist claims the song is nonreligious, the lyrics about a young man seeking inner-peace through stardom in Los Angeles and falling into a lifestyle that leaves him feeling empty closely relates to the messages from Matthew 24.
Many of us tend to occasionally be distracted by our own substitute for stardom in Los Angeles. We often believe that certain professional and social opportunities are the path to joy and comfort. In a rush to create the right “networks”, we focus on our relationships with other mentors place of our relationship with God. Whether it be a dream job in the perfect city, a certain number of likes on social media, or getting academic honors for the semester, we seek fulfillment from other sources than our connection to God.
Sometimes, we finish these things feeling great, but other times, as expressed in this song, lead to emptiness and isolation. Matthew 24 warns against these false messages from society, the ones that tell us that it is not enough to be a child of God, and says that they should not be trusted and can be deceptive.
The holidays are a time where more than ever we can be fed messages from “false prophets”. The hustle and bustle creates a lot of pressures for the right gifts, perfect family meals, and post-worthy family photos. However, after all of the craziness, extra-time to ourselves encourages both rest and self-reflection. Often these are calming moments, but at times, thinking back on our actions can leave us feeling conflicted and in need of perspective.
One of the most powerful verses in Matthew 24:23-27 claims, “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man”. While at first glance, this might suggest that God’s signs are so clear that they are hard to miss, which is a daunting thought for any of us who have ever felt a bit lost in our faith. I think a closer look highlights that even if our lifestyle and current perspective may be feel distant and far away from our ideals, God can still guide us towards the best path.
As with every Christmas season, diversions from our faith will be rampant, but I think that Matthew 24 challenges us to seek a fulfilling relationship with God even in times when societal pressures tell us we must do otherwise.
Sara Cotsakis ’20