Friday, December 07, 2007
The End of the Beginning -- Advent Thoughts
This is a good time to be alive. This is a terrible time to be alive. I mean, commerce is good, business is booming, international trade is strong. Prices aren’t all that bad. The mail gets there pretty well on time, except of course, for the occasional lost letter or during holiday times.
That’s to be expected.
There’s lots of types of entertainment to choose from – not at all like times past when there was just one or two things to do around town. There are many choices as to where and what to eat.
Physical fitness is all the rage. Everybody is health conscious – gyms are springing up everywhere. And it seems that there’s a spa in every other back yard. Spa’s – with warm water. Why some of us here remember the old days when good plumbing in a private residence was something a lot of people didn’t have.
Religious freedom is the rule rather than the exception, unlike our forefathers and some governments they lived under. That alone is something to be thankful for.
But there are problems as well. Crime is up again this year and the courts are back-logged, in spite of a generally well written and widely understood system of laws. Banking today, well, I hate to even go there, what with all the changes in interest rates and regulations that seem to change everyday. Banks are being bought and sold like so many bananas in the market. The things you have to do to get a loan or open an account. Your whole life has to become like an open book.
Then there’s the tax system. Taxes just keep going higher and higher and higher. It’s bad enough that you have to be them. You’d better do it just right or you end up having a little chat with one of their representatives. One of the last things you want to have happen to you is a visit from the tax man. I mean, we’ve all been hearing about the abuses of those guys lately. But I doubt that the government will really do anything about it.
And so many of the taxes go to support the military. The people in power seem to be increasingly buying into the sentiment that the poor will always be around and so it is up to religious organization, charitable groups and families to take of people in need. Meanwhile, the military gobble us more and more of the money and taxes keep going up.
All of this while the people running the country live high on the hog, feeding at the public trough in a city far away that many of them never leave, except for political posturing. Corruption is all around that place and the high living continues as tax rates rise.
At least many of our young men won’t serve in the military. They know our tradition and its regulations about fighting.
And some of the religious people today. Don’t get me started. Those people have turned our faith into a systems of do’s and don’ts. It’s hard enough to keep young people interested in the things of God without piling rule upon rule upon rule. I mean, not looking in a mirror on the Sabbath because you might see a gray hair and pull it out – as if that would really be working. And that’s only one of the more than two thousand rules of faith today. I mean, you have to be a scholar to remember them all, let alone understand what they mean.
And there are those blankety-blank Romans everywhere. Yes, yes, I know, compared to the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Persians and all the others who have ruled this country in the last several centuries, the Romans aren’t all that bad. At least, that’s what I hear, I’m not really old enough to remember all those other invaders. Yes, the Romans are generally benevolent if you mind your own business and don’t do anything they don’t like. But if you don’t, watch out. The road to Jerusalem is lined with crosses of those who crossed the Romans’ path. There they are hanging six feet off the ground, brave for an hour or so, until the pain of crucifixion begins to quickly sap the life from their pitiful, tortured bodies.
At least we don’t have to associate with them. That’s one of the few things they seem to understand. Our religious laws (thank God for that part of them) forbid us eating, playing or bowing down to their emperor with them. After some of the riots, they even know better than to carry their battle flags around, with all the pagan symbols on them.
Yes, it’s a good time to be alive. But it’s hard, too. I sure wish the rabbi was right about Jeremiah’s prophecy – the one he read in synagogue last Sabbath. “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our righteousness.” I for one am ready for that day to come true. I think the whole nation of Israel, indeed, the whole world is. Change has to happen – and happen soon. I hope God does come quickly.