In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 11I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me. He will baptize you will the Holy Spirit and fire.”
The gospel reading speaks of preparation and celebration. Certainly, we all have plenty of that this time of year, but does the busy-ness take away from practicing “Jesus is the reason for the season?” Taking a close look at William Barclay’s commentary on these verses tells us John the Baptist was pointing ahead to Jesus. “He was not only a light to illumine evil, but …. a signpost to God.”
Speaking of busy-ness, I sometimes dread my to-do list and all the task ahead before the day ends. I use the thought “If you are what you do, what are you when you don’t?” I keep many reminders on my phone but working the program of Alcoholics Anonymous keeps me focused on the here and now.
Sunday’s study of Diana Butler Bass’ book on gratitude warns of just feeling and expressing gratitude as a transactional commodity. She writes “Gratitude is, however, more than just an emotion. It is also a disposition, that can be chosen and cultivated, an outlook toward life that manifests itself in ACTIONS.”
Bass also connects gratitude and the Golden Rule: “Gratitude is about mutuality, gifts, and caring, about how we give and receive, about benefactors, and beneficiaries, and about how we respond to all of that.” My example is serving on the Outreach and Service Committee and the gratitude I feel in helping the Tzun family resettle in NW Arkansas.
Christmas is NOT a tired tradition. This year during Advent, I pray not to get caught-up in all the world’s bad news and the holiday commotion. Instead, may I turn my attention to balance study, reflection, and action, keep an attitude of gratitude, humility, hope and joy as together, we anticipate again, the coming of Christ Jesus afresh into our lives.
Contributed by Dennis Nelson