Second Sunday of Advent Lectionary Reflection
December 5, 2010
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Matthew 3:2
The prayers of the day during Advent open with the rather provocative phrase “Stir up…” I have been thinking a lot about those two words and what they mean for this season, for the beginning of a new church year, and for our walk as stewards/disciples of Christ. Be it a stirring up of hearts, wills, ways, waters, minds, power, or whatever, this petition is not for the shy and faint of heart. To “stir up” is to change things, to move, to mix, to incite, to kindle, or to ignite. The question then, it seems to me, is do we really mean what we pray? Do we want the change for which we so fervently pray? Are we truly ready to be Advent people?
Change involves discomfort; sometimes it even involves real pain. The gospel text appointed for this day recounts the story of John the Baptist and his call to repent and be engaged in the work of God’s reign. God has done and continues to do a new thing in Jesus, bringing the kingdom of heaven into our everyday lives and inviting us to be an active part of this new way of living and being here on earth. In Advent we have a foretaste of this reality as we watch, wait, and look for signs of God’s presence and action.
Yet just as change is difficult for human beings, so is recognizing the signs of God’s activity in the world. We are such busy people. We rush here and there, to and fro, from sunrise to sunset, even the youngest among us are constantly on the go. In our bustle and doing, it is easy to miss the presence of God that is here, there, and everywhere. When was the last time you spent an entire day simply “being,” attuned to the moment, living fully in the present, aware of God’s work and will in your life and in your relationships? For a few disciples this may be regular practice, for many it is often desired but only occasionally realized, and unfortunately for most folks it is not even a random blip on life’s radar screen.
Perhaps Advent should come with a warning label so that before we pray, we fully understand what we are asking God to do. As worship leaders, preachers, and teachers we must offer full disclosure about what the coming of Christ might possibly mean in the lives of the faithful and the seeker. Imagine if our worship bulletins contained a warning label about the life-changing, stirring-up possibilities that may occur as the result of a tiny spark of faith meeting Word and Sacrament. What if instead of making the message comfortable by conforming it to the supposed needs and desires of our community demographics, we follow John the Baptist’s proclamation and the words of the prophet in Isaiah and point clearly to Jesus. What if we tell the story whole and large and wild, putting aside fear and comfort and propriety to ignite the sparks of faith that lie in each heart? Imagine the metanoia, the change of heart, the vast turning that might result from such honest proclamation and full disclosure!
Dear friends, we are not stewards of some tame, lame dusty fairytale. We are in the presence of the holy–here, there and everywhere–as the wheat and chaff and fire are stirred up. Don’t quench the Advent fire; fan the flames. Or, as St. Catherine of Siena said, “If you are what you should be, then you will set the world on fire.” Blessings on the kindling of your message this week; may the Spirit spark a holy conflagration that will not be quenched.