December 17, 2016
Psalm 55 · Isaiah 10:20-27
But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 for they said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.” 19 It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. 20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some who are wavering; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
I— and I’m guessing, you too— don’t do very well with waiting. I need something to do. If I know I’ll be sitting in line at the DMV, I take a book. If I find myself stuck in line at the grocery store, I’ve always got my phone. Sometimes it feels like it’s part of my wiring to need to be accomplishing something or at the very least stemming the time of boredom with entertainment at all times.
God knows this part of our hearts. He created us and knows us perfectly. So in between the call to repentance, which John the Baptist gives us even before Christ’s ministry, and the mercy and salvation we await at the end of things, he’s actually given us a lot to do.
But the to-do list isn’t necessarily what we’d expect. Part of the instruction we find in Jude’s writings to “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” is to keep ourselves in the love of God. I take great comfort in this language of in. Jesus himself tells us to abide in him. Though we have a lot of work to do; doing justice and practicing hospitality and the jobs which he has uniquely called us to as members of his body; our primary task is just to sit at his feet and be. To hang out, be together, and become like him.
How am I supposed to do this? One of the great gifts he has given us while we await his return is prayer. When was the last time you confessed to God? Poured out your heart to him? Noticed something he did for you and thanked him? Prayed a written prayer from a book? I know I could keep the lines open far more than I do, how about you? What do you need to start, or stop, doing in your life to make space for prayer?
This time of waiting isn’t empty time. God doesn’t want us to become bored. It is an opportunity to become so ingrained in a relationship with him that when we do get to finally see him face to face, we can fall into his arms and recognize his embrace as the one we felt all along.
Father, I confess that I find so many things to fill the airspace that I don’t make enough room just to be with you. In this season of advent, would you help me to clear my life of the extra things that crowd you out. Thank you that you simply want me to be with you, in you. As I wait on you, fill my heart and make me more like you. Amen.