A friend of mine selects a word at the beginning of each year to help guide her through the coming twelve months. She gives her selection much more thought than I’m guessing most of us do to any resolutions we might make.
Her word for 2021 was renewal. It captured her hope to renew friendships, activities, mind, body, and spirit.
As I was reflecting on what word I might select for the coming year, I learned of the death of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. My mind jumped to thinking about what word I would connect with this great hero of faith.
I’ve heard several commentators suggest the word ubuntu.
It represents an African concept in which one’s sense of self is shaped by one’s relationships with other people. It’s a way of living that begins with the premise that “I am” only because “we are.”
We’ve made it. We’ve reached the end of our Advent journey.
But where do we find ourselves this Christmas Eve?
Are we with the shepherds out in the fields, minding our own business, waiting for the night to end? When the glory of the Lord bursts in around us here tonight, will we see it? Or will we be too terrified?
Or has our journey led us—along with the shepherds—to Bethlehem? And once there, will we dare to take the final step that will bring us face to face with the Christ whose coming we have awaited?
Our Advent journey nears its end. We long to reach our destination. Detours and delays at this point seem like more than mere annoyances. Nothing must stop us from reaching our journey’s end on schedule and according to plan.
Joseph had a plan in mind also, didn’t he?
Being a righteous man who was unwilling to expose his pregnant fiancée to public disgrace, Joseph planned to dismiss her quietly. This was not a harsh or malicious plan. In fact, considering the circumstances, Joseph’s plan was quite noble.
But just as Joseph mapped out the final steps of his plan, God introduced a change of direction.
As we travel our Advent journey, it’s difficult for us to imagine how John the Baptist could have missed the truth that Jesus was indeed the messiah—the one who was to come.
Consider the evidence: the blind could see, the lame could walk, the lepers were healed, the deaf could hear, the dead were alive, and the poor received good news.
And yet John—who was on his own Advent journey—seemed uncertain about which step to take next. Jesus was not following the road map that John had expected. Jesus replaced John’s message of judgment and repentance with one of forgiveness and redemption.
But despite his uncertain footing, John did not give up his journey. John’s questioning about Jesus’ identity reveals a desire to travel onward.
John’s question reminds us that faith involves taking risks.
Our Advent journey continues. And as we travel, we hear the words, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
But which of the many roads that lie in front of us is the “way of the Lord”? Which path are we to choose if we are to reach the coming Christ?
The ministry of John the Baptist is a good reminder that God rarely calls us to follow the well-beaten paths of the world. John the Baptist offers no indication that the road we are to travel will be easy or predictable.
John presented an appearance that was hard on the eyes and preached a message that was even harder on the ears. He was not exactly the ideal advance man for a coming king. And yet it fell to John to prepare the way of the Lord.
A call to that same task beckons us as we travel our Advent journey.
Associate Executive Minister