‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ (Luke 1:4)
Some scholars believe that John had known from very early in his life that the Event of the Ages was at hand, and that he had been born to herald its arrival. Reared in daily view of Mt. Nebo, from whose heights Moses had viewed with longing eyes the Promised Land and spoke of the Promised Messiah; overlooking the Jordan where Joshua had crossed, and Jericho whose walls had fallen at Joshua’s blast; living in the same region where Amos had pastured his flocks and had dreamed of a coming Davidic King who would rule all nations; often visiting the brook, where Elijah had been fed by the ravens; John meditated deeply on the history that was now heading to its climax, and he waited for the call of God. Sensing he was to be like the Elijah of prophecy, John intentionally, perhaps, copied the habits and dress of Elijah. He lived on locusts and wild honey. Locusts had been used as food from earliest times. They were roasted, or sun-dried, and eaten. It is said that they taste like shrimp. When John was 30 years old his call came. The nation, groaning under the cruelties of Roman bondage, was electrified by the voice of this strange, rugged, fearless hermit of the desert, crying on the banks of the Jordan that the long-foretold Deliverer was at hand. The burden of his cry was “Repent.” His preaching experienced immense popular success. The whole land was stirred. Great multitudes came to his baptism. John had great influence over the people, who seemed ready to do anything that he should advise. John was at the height of his popularity when he baptized Jesus, and proclaimed him the Messiah. Then, his mission accomplished, he passes off the stage. He had roused the nation, and presented the Son of God. His work was done.
Advent heralds the arrival of GOD with us. It is the time when GOD comes to earth to live as we live. It is the time when GOD shares his love with us as we should share our love with Him and among ourselves. Advent prepares us to welcome the arrival of GOD - The Teacher - who by example shows us how He would like us to live. How we should share His love between our Lord God and ourselves and, more importantly, between you and me, between our neighbours and ourselves.
Last Sunday, we lit the first of the Advent candles - the candle that represents preparation. It should symbolize our preparation for God’s coming again. "The great day of the LORD is near - near and coming quickly" according to the profit Zepheniah.
Advent gives us four weeks to ponder where we are in God’s creation of things. Advent can be the time when we, as individuals, as members of the whole family of God, should turn a mirror on ourselves. And we should look at that reflection of ourselves and ponder our place within this large and wonderful family. Isaiah expresses Advent’s hope: would that GOD would come and find us mindful of him.
In the Gospels, Jesus suggests that because of the demands our life can put on each one of us, it is very easy to forget what our life should be all about - that we are, because of GOD; that we have, because of GOD. We are the benefactors of a truly wonderful God. Without our belief in our GOD, this world would certainly be a different place in which to live. God is the best thing to ever happen to the people of this planet.
Advent is four weeks when we should reflect on how we might need to heed John’s call to the people. Advent is four weeks when we should balance our busy schedules with times for stillness and reflection. Stillness allows things that matter to rise up in our hearts. And Reflection gives us the room to ask ourselves questions that we may not otherwise hear.
What do I believe?
Why do I believe it?
What difference is it making in how I live?
What do I give to GOD?
What of mine belongs to GOD?
Advent should cause us to do two things: watch and wait. Staying awake and being alert are two Advent behaviors Jesus calls us to. Jesus is not coming to Bethlehem this Christmas. Bethlehem is history. Bethlehem has moved. Bethlehem is now located wherever WE are: wherever we love, trust, laugh, cry, and take a stand, wherever we tell the truth, forgive, or just wait on GOD to teach us what to do. We are the new Bethlehem! That is God’s gift to us or, rather God’s challenge to us. What we do with it is our thank you to GOD.
GOD has given us the means to do his Will. What we do when GOD calls upon us, is our thank you to GOD. But we have to know ourselves well enough to be aware of when He is calling us. And we need times of stillness and reflection to hear Him! We need times of stillness and reflection to put all this together, to appraise where we are in this God-thing.
God gives us the opportunity to do something for Him in our lives. Always there is sufficient space for the human work and the human will. We are here as short term tenants, and we have the freedom to decide on what we will do and how we shall spend our time. We can decide to not respond to God’s call, for a while we have the initiative and we have some control of our hours and labor. If we choose to not respond, if we choose to ignore God’s call - where is the good? Communion today is a good time to reflect, be still, and revive ourselves don't you think?