Preparing the Way through Advent

AdventWreath-184927200-596509225f9b583f18154ca1Isa. 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. (NRS)

Advent is a season of reflection. It is a time when we reflect on what God has done fulfilling His promises and the promises of His coming again. It is a reflection on how, as St. Augustine wrote:

The first coming of Christ the Lord, God’s son and our God, was in obscurity; the second will be in the sight of the whole world. When he came in obscurity no one recognized him but his own servants; when he comes openly he will be known by both good people and bad. When he came in obscurity, it was to be judged; when he comes openly it will be to judge. Augustine (AD 354– 430)

Throughout the year we set a pace for ourselves. We get consumed with meeting our goals, our plans and what we think are the important things in everyday life. We hear the voice of commercialism rise to a strong crescendo during certain seasons especially around Christmas speaking to our inner desires and creating a false sense of wants. It seems that it is beginning earlier and earlier each year as companies pour out advertisements enticing us to buy someone a special item for Christmas. And the target is not always what we should give to someone because sublimely it targets what we think we want and desire. It targets us like the car commercial I saw the other day where it touts the joy of our inner child. While the person giving the gift was pleased, it was the person receiving the car that was overjoyed.

Advent however is not a time of wants and desires, it is a time of preparation. It is a time of preparation and remembering the blessing we have from God who sent Jesus so we can be in a restored relationship with Him. It is a time of restoration for our hearts to the real purpose in life and that is worshipping God for who He is and His love that has been bestowed upon us. It is about the first coming of Jesus – the hope fulfilled so many years ago and the hope we have of his returning again.

In Advent we celebrate the beginning and ending of Christ’s victory over the powers of evil, and as we call upon God to accomplish that victory in our own lives, to break in on us, to be born in our hearts through the Holy Spirit and to create us anew. Advent is the time when God breaks in on us with new surprises and touches us with a renewing and restoring power.

AdventWreath-184927200-596509225f9b583f18154ca1Advent like Lent is time of reflection about our self and our relationship with God. As we approach the celebration of His first coming, let us also celebrate with anticipation of His second coming when He will restore the world and bring those who love, worship and follow Him into a new life changing relationship with Him. Our hope is in His victory; the victory through His resurrection, the empowering of the Holy Spirit in those who believe and the victory at His second coming. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

In the Midst of Silence

midstsilenceIsa. 40:31-41:1 31 but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.  41:1 Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength;

Dallas Willard wrote:

“Until solitude and silence have had their effects, our minds will very likely continue to be focused on the wrong things, or on good things in an anxious attitude of trying to dominate them. But as we, through relocating our bodies into solitude, escape and change the inputs that have constantly controlled our thoughts and feelings, we will have additional freedom to place our minds fully upon the great God, his kingdom, and its peace and strength.”[i]

Silence sometimes can seem deafening.  On one of our vacations we traveled to New Mexico and stayed at a place called Ojo Caliente.  At the time we were there in the early 90’s it was a very rustic resort;  a payphone in the hall, no television, and no WiFi unlike today.  At the resort it had four different types of hot springs; lithia, soda, iron, and arsenic. On the day before we left we arranged to spend time in solitude in the one of the hot tubs without a motor. It was private area, completely silent, where you ascended a rustic staircase to hot tub that was filled with water from the hot springs .  After soaking in the for about 20 minutes there a light knock on the door to inform us our time was up.  When we descended the stairs we came out, laid on a massage style table and were wrapped in a milagro blanket with the option of having your face covered.  As I laid there on the table, body fully relaxed, toxins being released from my body and in a place where there was total silence, I found I could not quiet my mind.  As I tried to clear one thought another came cascading in to take its place.  No matter how hard I tried to focus on clearing my thoughts and attempting to hear what God might reveal I could not.

This was also true during a short silent retreat I took this past summer.  It was at a silent retreat center in North Carolina.  During my time there I would spend time on the front porch sitting in a rocking chair with a cup of freshly brewed coffee reading and praying.  I would take hikes in the surrounding mountains and find places to rest and sit in solitude.  As I sat taking in the beauty of God’s creation, looking over the valley or hearing the sound of a water fall or listening to the gentle breeze as it rustled through the trees and sound of birds in the background, again I realized the difficulty of silencing my thoughts.

Silence can be deafening, however, in the deafening silence there is voice that we can hear if we still our souls and wait.  It is the precious voice of God speaking to us through His Holy Spirit.  A voice that is heard when we clear our own ambitions and desires and seek His will for us.  It is the same voice that came to Elijah while he sought refuge in a cave.  It is the same voice that spoke to Moses in the burning bush.  It is the same voice that spoke to David when he went up against Goliath with five smooth stones and it is same voice that still speaks to us today.

God still speaks to each of us today.  If you slow down enough you will hear His voice.  If we meditate, as the Psalmist says, on His Word day and night it will renew our strength; it will be voice of encouragement and provide the endurance to continue to do ministry for His glory.  It is His voice of grace, mercy, and love for us and for the whole world even in the deafening silence of our minds.

[i] From Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks. Copyright © 2016 by Willard Family Trust. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.