A Cycle – 1st Sunday of Advent 22
Mt. 24: 37- 44
How many times have I heard the season of Advent is one we should enter with our minds and hearts centered on the coming of Christ. We are to remember his coming as he came to us in human form and became the sacrificial lamb for our sins. We are encouraged to look forward to the time when Christ will come again in glory to restore the earth and all that is in it. We are told to long for his coming with joyful anticipation. In fact, our longing for an encounter with Christ with an enthusiastic anticipation is at the heart of this season. But it is also to be an active anticipation.
We are to be busy preparing the way for an encounter with Christ. The scriptures tell us this active anticipation is harder than we think because daily life distracts us and occupies our time. The scriptures encourage us to “stay awake,” to “arise from our slumber” and to put on Christ. We can all too easily fall into a pattern of living our faith where we are on “remote control” or “disengaged” while at the same time believing we are doing all that is necessary for we are doing what our faith requires of us.
In fact, this need for us to put on of Christ is an urgent plea in the scriptures. Paul tells us to not only put on Christ (Rom.13:14) but to have the same mind and judgment as Christ (1 Col. 1:10). We typically judge our quest for holiness by how well we keep the commandments and ignore the challenge to “conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ so that whether Christ is present or absent we are standing firm in the Spirit, striving to live the life of the gospel” (Phil.1:27).
Living the life of the gospel means when everyone sees us, we are giving witness to what we believer. We need to be striving for a deeper more intimate contact with Christ. We should avoid staying stationary in our quest of holiness by actively seeking to encounter the transforming power of the gospel and have it change our minds and hearts. We should long for the Christ to invite us into the to follow him and to abide in him not knowing what will be expected of us after we say yes to his invitation.
In our first reading today, the prophet Isaiah tells us we are to climb the mountain of the Lord so he may instruct us in his ways. Two things are mandatory in those words from Isaiah. First, we must be active, by exerting physical and emotional effort to encounter Christ and allow him to “lead us to the Father.” You do not have to be a mountain climber to know how strenuous just hiking in the mountains can be. Hiking in the mountains is tiring work and unless you are fit you will tire early and fail to reach the peak where the views are spectacular, and the presence of God surrounds you. God’s invitation to us is not to take the easy path because the only way to the Father is by dying to self.
The second thing God is telling us through Isaiah, is to allow Him to instruct us. Will our Advent practices lead us to a place where Christ will instruct us. Prayer is a good place to allow Christ to instruct us, private personal, interactive prayer where Christ can speak to our hearts. Years ago, a passage of Scripture caused me to pause and reflect on one aspect of God’s desire to instruct us and that is he wants our hearts to respond to his presence. In the Old Testament Book of Samuel, God tells Samuel to “go and anoint a man after my own heart” (1 Sam.13:14).
That man was not a man but a mere youth by the name of David, the youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem. How could a teen aged boy become a man after God’s own heart? No other person in the scriptures was called a person after God’s own heart. Why is this important for us as we consider how to allow Christ to instruct us?
Consider his life and how much time he spent in the hills of Bethlehem tending sheep. If you read the psalms, you will discover it was in those times of solitude tending his father’s sheep were the catalyst for becoming a person after God’s own heart. Read the psalms and you will find David prayed from his emotions and he voiced those emotions to God. Every negative emotion ever experienced by us such as fear, anger, doubt, confusion, repentance, sorrow, betrayal, abandonment, and doubt all were expressed by David to God as he prayed. David wrote seventy two psalms and I encourage you to during these four weeks of Advent read three psalms a day. Read and pay attention to not only David’s emotions but your own and seek to discover in yourself the ability to be honest with God about those feelings.
Also pay attention to how David even as he experienced abandonment by God or punishment by God ends by expressing his absolute trust in God’s love and mercy.
The psalms of David are from a man who climbed the mountain of God and encountered a God who loved him and whom he could trust with his heart. David was human, he sinned, and he knew fear as he was pursued by a King who wanted to kill him, but he never wavers in his trust in God’s ability to be with him and guide him.
Advent is a time for us to encounter that same God and by doing so become people after God’s own heart. Advent is more than lighting candles, attending services, repenting or even daily devotions. It is a time when the Church is encouraging you to remember and reflect on God’s love for us was revealed by his sending his only son so that we may not perish but have everlasting life and that we live our redemption daily by trusting in the redemptive power of the cross not ourselves. Come Lord Jesus Come and be born in our hea