Turning Toward God: Advent Meditation, 12/9/2012
By: Amy Real Coultas
During Advent, we are preparing our hearts to experience the arrival of the Word of God. We’re told to “keep watch” and to “stay awake.” We are supposed to pay attention to what God is up to in the world. In this passage from Luke, a young adult named John is hanging out in the wilderness, trying to learn more about who God is. He’s paying attention. When God is looking for someone to help point out what God is up to, he passes over the usual power circle – the emperor, the governor, the inner circle, the high priests – in favor of hanging out with this strange guy wandering out there in the wilderness.
John is paying attention and hears the word of God when it comes to him. He remembers God’s promise that “all flesh shall see salvation,” and he understands that he’s supposed to help share that promise with others. John knows that getting to know God is not dependent on being important or powerful or well-connected. God’s promise is different: salvation is offered to anyone who turns to God.
John’s message is about that turning. As we try to pay attention to what God is up to in our lives, we turn our attention away from our own preoccupations and toward God’s desire. That’s what “repentance” is truly about – turning away from whatever is distracting us from God and turning toward God. During Advent, that repentance, that turning, is a chance to keep our attention focused on how God shows up in unexpected ways in the world.
In John’s wandering, in his alertness, in his wide-awake-ness out there in the wilderness, he comes to understand something pretty surprising: When we make room for God in our lives, everything changes. Some things get turned upside down, other things get set right-side up. Bumpy roads get repaved; low spots in our lives get lifted up; what once seemed insurmountable becomes an easy hike. In God’s hands, John says, even our sins are forgiven. He’s preparing us to hear another surprising, unbelievable truth God has in store for us: In God’s hands, we’ll find out that even death means life.
Sometimes we think we can only hear God in moments of utter peace and quiet and perfection. John’s story shows us that in the midst of all kinds of wild and confusing things, God shows up, God works. In the days of the Advent season, we practice paying attention to the promises of God even in the middle of all kinds of distractions. What is God turning upside down in your life? What pathway is opening up in front of you? What might God be making room for in your life so that when Jesus shows up to lead you someplace unexpected, you’ll know how to follow?
Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, p. 211).