Advent Devotional: December 7
I thought I had seen rain; then I moved to Louisiana. Last November, Ruston got about eight inches of rain. Jennie and I thought it was just because we were moving into a new home and everything we owned was in a cardboard box. We moved in, dried off, and found ourselves smack in the middle of Advent. Well, once again Advent has arrived, and, if you look hard enough, you will still find boxes somewhere tucked away in our home. And yes, it’s raining in Ruston tonight.
So, another year, another devotional, right? No. Not so much this year. On more than a few occasions this year, I’ve plugged into any number of news outlets only to become thoroughly overwhelmed by the extremes. There is simply too much hatred and not enough tolerance; too much poverty and too little justice. Too much hunger, too much violence. Too much apathy and too little empathy. Yep, I’ve had it with our world of extremes.
But now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve been quite the extremist myself. You see, this year, I’ve watched too much TV and read too few books. I’ve worked too much and slept too little; ate too much and exercised, well – never. I’ve yelled too often and laughed too seldom. I’ve questioned too much and prayed too little. And far, far too often, I have failed to listen, and failed when I have spoken. How about that??? My very own year of extremes. But wait, is not Advent the season for extremes? Consider the text from Isaiah Chapter 11:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
and the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall feed;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
A blacksmith often works in a dimly lit shop. The shop is “dark” so that the blacksmith can determine the temperature of the steel as it changes color – first red, then orange, then white. When the right color or temperature is reached, into the water it goes. This process hardens the steel and prepares it for its intended use. Fire and water. Perhaps these are the only two “extremes” on which we need to focus. In Chapter 3 of Matthew, we hear the words of John the Baptist.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Earlier in that same chapter we are called to repent for the kingdom is close at hand. The Greek word for repentance in this context is metanoia, which literally means to change one’s mind. Perhaps for a moment this Advent, we should resist the urge to focus on the extremes of the world, and pause to focus on the fire; a fire that glows hot with the promise of potential even when the darkness is at its most extreme. We should give thanks for the refinement of our hearts and minds by the fire of the Holy Spirit; a fire that transforms us so that we are fit for the purpose to which we are called. And, ever mindful of the brokenness born of our own private extremes, perhaps we should pause and recall the waters of our baptism. Called by a God who makes all things new, may we truly change our minds this Advent season and become extremists for peace, hope, love and joy.
Frank Lewis, NorthPark member