Text: Luke 3:1-6
Have you heard the Echoes of God in your life? I suspect that at the beginning of December, we are all so busy in our preparations for Christmas, that the answer is probably not. Even in my office, where I am preparing for all of these worship services leading up to Christmas eve, it is difficult to slow down and stop and to listen for those echoes. How often do we take a moment to listen for the echoes of the Biblical Story, for God, in our own life and experiences?
I suspect not very often.
Most of the time we see Advent as a time where we’re anticipating the coming of Christmas… we’re in the midst of all of our various preparations, while at the same time figuring out which Christmas party we need to get to, what arrangements we need to make, securing travel plans, cards to fill out and mail… not to mention gifts… and yet… and yet… do you think that God wants us to be running around, trying to fulfill the sky high expectations of either ourselves or someone else to get that “perfect” Christmas?
Here’s something. Did you know that in the time that Jesus was born, the expectation of a Messiah was so high, there were many different ideas about who the Messiah might be, and how the Messiah would appear to the people. The expectations were so high that when Jesus lived, it’s not surprising that many… perhaps even a majority of people… weren’t able to see God right in their own midst. It’s that same kind of busy-ness, of being too caught up in making things perfect, that we miss God right in our midst. One of those early echoes came from a rough cry, out on the banks of the Jordan River.
John the Baptist, as much as we know, was a preacher in the wilderness, and was one of many voices proclaiming the hope for a Messiah. Some have proposed that John was an Essene –the same Jewish sect that is thought to have collected the Dead Sea Scrolls –or at very least he had learned from them. He lived an austere life, living out away from the cities, encouraging people to wash away their sins in the waters of the Jordan. He was a voice… proclaiming the coming of God, and calling people to prepare… a voice, in the wilderness.
For Mark, Matthew and Luke, they heard “Prepare the way of the Lord!” They saw something there… Even though Isaiah 40 was written to the Exiles some five hundred years earlier, even though it was a call to the Exiles to prepare for a return to the Promised Land, the echo of those words resonated in the experience of John the Baptist. They saw it pointing to something new, and that these words from Isaiah took on a new life and new meaning. God was up to something, they heard God’s echoes in the life of Jesus, and sought to connect the dots in their respective Gospels.
In a very practical sense, Luke and the other gospel writers sought to listen to God’s echoes in the life of Jesus. As I said earlier, they were making a case for him by noting events that seemed to parallel in the words of the prophets. They were actively listening for echoes of God.
It is something we forget leading up to Christmas. Even though Advent is all about preparation, it’s not about all of that ancillary stuff. It’s about the anticipating of Christ coming into our lives, and us making room for him. Let every heart prepare him room! as the carol goes.
Ever since Christmas started being celebrated in the 4th Century, Advent was and is a time of preparation very similar to Lent. Believers would take up a time of fasting, refraining from things, taking time to read, learn, pray, reflect on how God, how Christ, how the Holy Spirit comes into our lives. It’s about taking time to listen to the Echoes of God in our personal lives.
I think there’s a real wisdom in that, because in this season we do get so busy because we’re spending all this time preparing for this event, that event, making sure that we see everybody so nobody gets left out… and at the same time we end up finding ourselves exhausted rather than able to really celebrate Christmas for two weeks once we actually get there. It doesn’t have to be that way!
What if we were conscious about taking time to listen for the Echoes of God in our lives?
Instead of answering “I don’t have time for that.” What if we made the time? I know it’s easier said than done, but nobody said that Advent is easy. Waiting is hard work. Taking time to slow down and listen for the echoes of God is hard work! But there are some real, positive and practical results that can come out of it… not the least of which is less stress and more peace. Where we do have the choice is how much we let ourselves get swept up in the hype.
Advent is about preparation, but what if we did it in a different way? What if we spend less, but give more. There’s some wisdom there. In Spending Less time trying to make things perfect, or trying to buy the perfect gift, we end up Giving More of who we are, and learning that’s what matters. It’s in this shifting of priorities that we starting hearing the Echoes of God in our own lives… as John the Baptist proclaimed, we end up preparing the way of the Lord in a much more tangible way.
I think too often we are simply caught up in the midst of our own “busy” that we don’t really see that God is already at work right in our midst. The gospel writers, were trying to point that out, and the best way they could was to mark these echoes of God by drawing these lines from the Biblical stories to Jesus. Maybe we could stand to do the same.