Checking Our Baggage
"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation…and the worries of this life…Be alert at all times, praying…" Luke 21:34,36
"Travel light. Heart overload is dangerous to personal, spiritual, and communal health, limiting free movement, and endangering life."
It wasn't that people weren't looking for the Messiah. They were. After all, the Hebrew prophets spoke of his coming. The trouble was in their perception; and ours. What we expect God to be like and what we think God will do are often at odds with how God comes, and what God is truly up to.
Like angelic flight attendants standing at the gate, the lectionary readings for Advent are there to check our baggage: While we are used to security checks at airports, we are not always so sure that God cares for our safety if we expose what is within our heart in prayer. There are all kinds of reasons for our hesitancy: we really do want to carry concealed weapons on board. After all, we are not sure we can trust God to protect us and to provide for us on this journey into the Kingdom. We are also loaded with alternate travel maps; God's will may not be convenient. Then there are other comfort concerns, not to mention the compulsions, wants, and wishes of all those others we think we need to keep happy on the trip.
As we enter the season of Advent, we are bombarded with the worries of the secular world—designed to tug at our heart, and all coated with glitter so that we will buy, wrap, give, and buy some more. The warning to "be on guard" (Luke 21:34) is the spiritual discipline we need as we drive, walk in the mall, listen to endless advertisements, and even as we are invited to consider one more program which will bring Advent to our church.
Being alert, awake, and truly noticing where the Messiah is to be found, happens as we wait prayerfully in God's presence. Like Zechariah who waited for nine months in a silence which was pregnant with transformation and insight, so we are invited to wait for Jesus' coming. Such silence is not found easily. Even as we leave the business of Jerusalem and the temple, enter our own house and shut the door, our heart finds endless reasons to avoid simply opening our attention to God. There are SO MANY OTHER THINGS TO BE DONE!
For once, however, we do not need to do much.
After all, God is the one orchestrating the whole wonderful birthing. We are invited to come, and with simple, open hearts, make room for God's gift and God's way of bringing the Kingdom in the child Jesus.
Wendy J. Miller Eastern Mennonite Seminary Harrisonburg, VA