Today’s Advent Reading:
USCCB — December 7th
On October 26, 2017, one of the biggest decisions I made in my life came to fruition. It was a four-month-long process, which was surprisingly short, given that it usually takes people about six months to a year to go through this process.
On that rainy Thursday, I was sworn in as a United States citizen.
The naturalization process has three stages once you submit your application. You first receive a notification for a biometrics appointment, where your fingerprints and photos are taken. Then, after an unspecified length of time that can range from weeks to months, you are scheduled for a citizenship interview, which is also when you take the citizenship test. After a successful interview, you are notified within a month when you are to be sworn in by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer or a judge.
Prepping for the citizenship test involves memorizing answers to 100 questions about the history of the United States, from its founding to its current president, and about the governor, senators, and representatives of your state. As I was cramming for the citizenship test the night before my interview, I began to notice a parallel between this whole process and our walk with Christ.
The first step, the biometrics appointment, confirms your identity. They file your forms, photos, and fingerprints together, identifying you as who you are. One of the first steps of becoming a Christian also involves identification, specifically identification of ourselves as sinners. Without recognizing this and the fact that the world as it currently is broken, nothing about the love and grace of God makes sense.
After the identification, you are required to learn the history of the country you are looking to become a citizen of. This is also true of the citizenship of heaven. In order to “enter the kingdom of heaven,” we have to know the Father and what He has done for us, as well as His will for us (Matthew 7:21). Without the completeness of His story, we cannot understand God’s love, nor can we really accept Christ as our savior.
The third step is at the oath ceremony, where you swear the naturalization oath, which includes renouncing your original citizenship. You are required to swear the following:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
As I spoke these words in the historic Faneuil Hall where my oath ceremony took place, surrounded by paintings of the founding fathers of the U.S. and artifacts of past times, I felt an immense sense of loss. I was willingly abandoning a substantial part of the identity I carried the first 21 years of my life, 11 of which had been in the U.S., during which I struggled so hard to learn the language and culture and to deal with racism as a South Korean immigrant. Fighting back my tears, I reminded myself where I was: Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. I remembered that this was because I was in school at Harvard, and that I would not be here had I not had those experiences that shaped me into who I am today. Then I was filled with something else: thankfulness. And I was overwhelmed.
When God takes us into His house, He expects us to renounce the lives we have thus far led in the world and to live righteously as true Christians would. He does not tell us that it would be easy; the Bible explicitly says multiple times that it will be difficult. Sin has been such an integral part of our lives that leaving it literally requires us to give up being who we are. But God makes us new. His making us new, His salvation, brings us perfect peace, and we can take refuge and trust in Him.
And all this is to be celebrated, as all the families and friends who came to the oath ceremony celebrated, so openly and joyfully, making noise as if at a graduation ceremony. In all seriousness, how much more should we both more solemnly and more thankfully celebrate becoming a citizen of the Kingdom if even the mere change of earthly citizenship demands so much celebration?
This Advent season, as we wait for Jesus’ coming, we must remember who we were and who we now are through what God has done for us. We must celebrate. We must give thanks to God, for He opens for us “the gates of the righteous” and gives us peace and strength to bear arms for the Lord (Psalms 118:19). And knowing that we cannot do so by ourselves, we utter the same oath for God:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to [the world] of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the [Kingdom] against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the [Kingdom] when required by the [Word]; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the [Kingdom] when required by the [Word]; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the [Word]; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Helen Kim ’18 is an Environmental Science and Public Policy concentrator in Kirkland House.