B Cycle – 2nd Sunday in Advent 17

                                                                    Is. 40:1-5, 9-11

I was watching an ad on TV recently about Shriner’s Hospital for Children and the kids in the commercial are amazing.  Their physical limitations make you want to not just donate but to somehow be there to cheer them on but more than cheer you are moved to want to hold and comfort them.  Those ads made me think of my own children when they were small and even now when they are faced with difficulties.  That same emotion of wanting to comfort them, to help them and to cheer them on rises up in me.

In the eleventh chapter of Luke’s gospel we are reminded of this innate trait in us as we are told “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”   God is aware that we will all our deficiencies would do everything possible for our children.  He is also telling us that we are not even in the same league as he is when it comes to how much good he desires to lavish upon us.

Many parishes during this time of Advent are busy offering opportunities for your reflection and spiritual growth.  If you are in such a parish I encourage you to take advantage of those opportunities.  If your parish does not offer such programs then I encourage you to make every effort to go before God with the understanding he wants to hold you, comfort you and he desires to love you into wholeness as a loving father.

Our God is not a God we are to approach with fear and trembling, eyes downcast waiting for the hammer to fall.  Our God is a God of compassion with a burning desire to wipe away your tears and rebuild your life that has been deformed by rejection, by pain, by life’s sad events, by the sins of others and yes our own sin.

I cannot tell you how many conversations I have during counseling where individuals feel betrayed, abandoned and yes question the will of God to even hear their cries.  I understand and know the doubtI see in their eyes and expressed in their hearts when I speak of God who only desires good things for us.  The challenge we all have is to show those doubting God’s nature to always overlook our short comings and lack of trusting his love for us is not fantasy but it is real.  This is hard to do when one has never felt the presence of God or of a loving father in their own life. The truth is we must trust God enough to allow him to embrace us as he did the prodigal son.

Each one of those kids on the Shriner’s ad is filled with hope and with joy because they understand what is being offered them.  A life lived were their deformities are overcome by the work of someone else.  This does not mean they do not have a part to play because they do have a huge part to play. They have to trust in the work of the doctors, nurses, aids, therapists and on those who desire to help them have hope. Those kids have to allow themselves to be remade by science, technology and the skill of caring loving people and they must take a step of faith.

We too have to be filled with that same hope, trust and believe that our God will not only gather us up in his arms; he will reshape our lives and our hearts.  If we are willing to do that then our hope will turn into belief in God’s desire not only to gather us up in his arms but that he will pour his love into us and change us.

I do know and understand this is more than a description of an image of God. This truly is the God who constantly reveals this to us in the scriptures. I also know this from my own love of my children as limited as it is by my human nature. I would do anything to help my children when they are in pain because I love them without reservations.

This is exactly what Isaiah is trying to convey to us about God.  We have a God who wants us to know he will lead us to that place where we do not have to fear.  His rod and staff are there not to punish us but to protect us from the things that will destroy us.  He wants us to know there is nothing he will not do to let us feel his love, his mercy and his great hope for us as sons and daughters.

Advent is a time where we are called to not only turn our minds and hearts to God but it is a time for us look at the way we have like sheep gone our own way, doing our own thing and how we have been avoiding his presence. He desires to embrace us and celebrate our taking a step toward him.  Just as one child on the Shriner’s ad says, “I’m walking” even with substantial aid she was taking steps.  Let us with the grace of the Holy Spirit helping take those first steps to be in the arms of the shepherd who will not condemn us but will rejoice over us.

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