2015 - Advent Reflection: Preparation
Luke’s Gospel account this week begins with a vivid assertion of individual power: “…the reign of Tiberius Caesar” and “the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas.” Surely this description invokes thoughts of grandeur and might, of a strong and concentrated authority.
However, the impressive jurisdiction of these tetrarchs and high priests pales in comparison to the message John the Baptist is simultaneously spreading throughout Jordan. John’s message of preparation is one of faithful humility; it is a prophetic call for repentance and forgiveness. He reminds us that our ambition lies not in grand hopes of accomplishment or gaining accolades, but rather in humbly preparing our hearts for the coming of our Savior. We are not readying ourselves to change the world alone; rather we are preparing to witness, and cooperate with, the expansive grace and love of Christ that transforms our world.
If we rely only on ourselves, each day is encumbered with myriad “winding roads” and “rough ways”: a teacher struggles with managing an unruly class with diverse needs; a school leader faces staggering budget cuts; a first grader leaves school frustrated amidst a world of foreign words in a new language. As much as we try to tackle these obstacles individually, it is imperative that we have the wisdom to recognize our own humanity. The job is impossible, and we are inadequate. The season of Advent is driven by this essential truth of our humanity: we are deeply, indeed completely, dependent on God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes - and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside -- is not a bad picture of Advent.”
The beauty of Christian discipleship, and of Advent, lies not only in Christ’s saving grace, but also in Jesus’ coinciding invitation. This season we do not only witness the salvation of God, but Jesus calls us to join in his mission. Our call is not, by ourselves, to straighten the winding roads nor make smooth the rough ways of our broken world. That job is for a love and a being much deeper than our hearts can comprehend. In Advent, rather, we prepare to join in the work of Christ with zeal and compassion, to witness and share the vibrant kinship and radical hospitality of Jesus. Indeed, what could be a more profound preparation this Advent than opening ourselves more willingly to participate in the saving mission of Jesus?
Loving God, this Advent, give light to those who sit in darkness, guide us in the way of peace, and teach us to wait in hope for the coming of your son. Amen.
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