WATCH, WAIT, PREPARE – 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B
Much of human life involves waiting for some future event to come, or for a present event to pass. Our age has a lot of trouble waiting patiently. We are the microwave, computer, super highway information, instant news, instant everything, instant grace and instant results generation.
On the other hand, there is the tendency to prolong living on the earth, put off spiritual growth and progress, put off repentance, prayer, dealing with one’s relationship with God, hearing and responding to the Word of God, and making long term or permanent life-long commitments. Some live only in the present and make few preparations for the future. On the other hand, some make all kinds of preparations for one’s material future and none for one’s spiritual future. A few make many preparations for their spiritual future, but few for their material future.
The season of Advent is a time of preparing for our spiritual future in our present. Our spiritual future involves the coming of the Lord. Isaiah’s times for many are similar to the times we live in now. In his conversation with the Lord, he asks the Lord: “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” Our national moral and spiritual statistics reveal many people with hardened spiritual hearts who have no fear of the Lord.
Suppose you knew someone or some people who had a hardened heart toward you, and you had a real love and concern for them, and you wanted to come to them. You might come to them in little ways like sending a card or letter, or sending someone to tell them you were coming or wanted to come. Isaiah appeals to the Lord to come in some mighty deeds to reach the people whose hearts had become hardened towards the Lord. “Return for the sake of Your servants.”
The Lord often comes to people in different kinds of experiences before coming to them in great graces of His presence. Many have to experience very difficult experiences before they turn their attention and hearts to the Lord. They may suffer some tragedy, or setback, and they decide to change their course back to the Lord and right or better ways. “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!”
The difficult experiences, which act as graces of the Lord, can help people begin to think about the Lord and their spiritual state. “Behold you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.”
The prophet describes the spiritual state of the people. For many in our time the description fits. “There is none who calls upon Your name, who rouses himself to cling to you…” The spiritual gap seems to grow between those on one hand who are seeking and moving closer to the Lord, and those who are moving farther apart from the Lord and not calling upon His name.
To use the image of Isaiah, we need the Lord who is the Potter to work with us who are the clay. “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you the Potter; we are the work of your hands.” A potter has to be rougher on difficult or misshapen clay, than with clay that is easily shaped into a dish.
The Lord often uses some difficult suffering experiences to help in the conversion shaping of someone into a faithful and true disciple. The experiences of life are the raw materials the Lord uses to form and shape us, and prepare us for our future life with God. “Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be saved.” Wandering away from the Lord creates many suffering experiences. The Lord uses them to draw people back to God. The Lord used His own suffering and death to open up the kingdom of heaven for us. He didn’t cause it. Sin caused it, but the Lord used it. The Lord often is forced to use human sufferings to help people see their need for Him. The Lord will use all means to draw people to Himself. As Paul says: “He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jesus will come. We are to be prepared. “Be watchful! Be alert!”