2017 December Issue
of The Sermon Mall


Advent-A Time For Listening

The church year edges into our cycle of worship while the sun slips lower each day toward the dark rim of a cold horizon, and night, like a thief, steals a little more light from each day. While early civilizations feared that the sun would disappear altogether, today's technology reassures us that the "sun will come up tomorrow," and insulates us with electric light and central heating against the dark and cold. Scientific discoveries have served to free us from living under a crushing cycle of fear which searched for relief by manipulating the gods through multiple sacrifices. We know better now, we say. And we rest easy, even while we sacrifice our time and money to a multitude of cultural and commercial gods. However, our souls sleep. . . wrapped in the blankets of busyness, lists, programs and the expected.

The Advent readings came like kind parents, calling us by name, shaking us awake (lest we miss the real Gift God is bringing in Jesus!)

Spiritual disciplines are one of the ways we can prepare the way of the Lord. They assist us to hear the voice of God calling us to wake up, and to remove the layers of blankets under which we hide and sleep. This kind of hearing takes time and needs a place. The gods of today's commerce will beckon and call, and the God of Emmanuel also callsin the wilderness.

We can enter the wilderness during Advent by making a decision to shut our study door and to hang a "do not disturb" sign on the knob for an hour each day. Allow the answering machine to receive phone calls. Take a few minutes to simply be quiet, to sink into the stillness of this space.

The Lord is there, speaking Isaiah 61:14, 89 to you. Verses 1011 can become your response to God. Allow the words to come slowly, and notice which word or phrase catches your attention. Stay with those words, and allow them to repeat within you. Meditate on them, slowly, gently. Allow the word to be seed taking root within you. It is the Lord who wakes our spirit from winter sleep and brings the growth of spring (Is 61:11). Our receptivity to listening, and allowing the word to read our inner self—touching hidden places and bringing them into the light—creates a fertile and ready soil.

Respond to God in prayer, allowing what you have heard in this time of listening to guide your praying. This can also be a time for prayers of petition, confession, supplication, and thanksgiving. You may also desire to record in your journal something of your experience during this time in God's presence. Spiritual formation is that ongoing transformation of the inner self (Romans 12:1,2) which in turn bears fruit in all of life. It is a lifelong journey, requiring patience, waiting, discipline, and receptivity on our part to what God is doing in our life through the Spirit of Christ.

Wendy J. Miller

Eastern Mennonite Seminary . . . keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes . . . . And what I say to you, I say to all: Keep awake.

Mark 13:3237 NRSV

See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; . . . the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Mark 1:2,3 NRSV