Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Time for Listening

By Colleen O’Sullivan
Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go.  If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea; your descendants would be like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their name never cut off or blotted out from my presence.   (Isaiah 48:17-19)

Jesus said to the crowds:  “To what shall I compare this generation?  It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, “We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.”  (Matthew 11:16-17)

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Once, when I was a seminary student, during a school break I was invited to preach at a church near my home.  I asked my family to come to the worship service.  Afterwards, I asked my father what he thought.  He said it was fine till I got to the part about letting all the prisoners out of jail.  I was dumbfounded; I had made no mention of either prisoners or jails!  Nor had I quoted anything about setting all the captives free.

The Lord must be equally amazed and disheartened by what we take away from all God says to us, if we even bother to listen at all.  If God were writing or speaking to us today, I imagine something along these lines:

You know I love you with an everlasting love.  I wouldn’t have created you if that weren’t the case.  But, I have to tell you that sometimes I am greatly frustrated at your inability to listen to my voice.  From the very beginning I have set before you the way of life, yet some days it truly looks like the road less traveled.  Many of you can’t even recite my commandments, let alone live them.  I desire lives of abundance and goodness for you, yet you continue, generation after generation, to march into exiles of your own making.  I have never driven anyone from their home; there’s no need.  You’re all too good at running in the direction of trouble.

I sent my servant John the Baptist into the world to prepare the way for my Son.  Hardly anyone listened to his call to repentance.  You were all too busy laughing at him because of his attire and his offbeat eating habits.  You said he was possessed by an evil spirit.  I persevered, however, and tried again.  I sent my only Son Jesus to you.  He was a different sort of person altogether from his cousin.  He enjoyed a good party.  He sought out those in need of healing.  He ate with sinners and tax collectors, and you labeled him a glutton and a drunk.

What am I to do?  Somber or joyful, the call to repent or the offer of mercy – you find fault with all of it.  I will never give up in my pursuit of you, however.  I will continue to call to you through the words of the holy Scriptures.  I will sing to you in the sights and sounds of nature.  I will quietly whisper in your ear when you are at rest.  All I ask is that you listen.  

Advent is a time for listening with the ears of our hearts for the coming of our Savior.  Take a break from online Christmas shopping.  Put down your cell phone.  Stop texting and emailing.  Pull yourself away from Candy Crush, Spider Solitaire and Words with Friends.  Sit in quiet expectation that the Lord has something to say to you.  If you need Advent resources to help you, two places to find some are and

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