Every Wednesday during the Advent season, we will post a reflection in hopes that it may help you on your own journey through Advent. This weekís reflection is offered by Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director.
“Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 12:6)
More often than not, living our faith is simply a matter of doing the right thing.
What tends to complicate it is the impressive ability we humans have to con ourselves into not recognizing the right thing when we see it.
In today’s Gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist is urging the crowd to change their lives in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.
One by one, the various groups ask him what, specifically, they need to do. His answers are consistently simple and straightforward ó share your resources, don’t cheat people, don’t bully anyone, be satisfied with what you have. Ö In other words, do the right thing, and go about living your life.
What strikes me about this exchange is not John’s advice (which is logical and down-to-Earth) but the fact that these folks ask the question to begin with.
You would think they’d know without asking what they should do, but it seems that they were either unable ó or unwilling ó to see the answer.
I wonder if part of the problem was that the people listening to John were fixated on the notion that repentance takes a major spiritual overhaul rather than the simple series of virtuous little tune-ups that are usually required.
Perhaps these folks, like many of us, over-thought the situation.
I’ve heard it said that it is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.
Based on personal experience, I believe it. At those times in my life when I’ve made change dependent on mindset, I generally fail.
But when I just start moving the ball down the field a little at a time by simple changes in my behavior, I find that my mindset usually comes along on its own.
This is a good thing to remember during Advent, when we might be tempted to get all pie-in-the-sky about the coming of Jesus at Christmas.
When we do that we over-sentimentalize one of the most central, basic and earthy truths of the Christian faith: God dwells among and within the human family.
The core of John’s message to the crowd, as it would be later for Jesus, was that you don’t need to worry about settling your ledger with God if you concentrate first and foremost on reverencing God’s children.
The best way to prepare to behold the face of Christ at Christmas is to gaze upon it daily in the faces of other people.
At CFCA we see this proven every day.
Time and again, our sponsors share with us stories of how their simple desire to help a child ended up taking them on a transforming journey deeper into the heart of Christ.
They began by simply wanting to do the right thing, with no expectations and no pretense, and that began for them a journey of surprising blessings.
Should such a journey come before you this Advent, my advice is to not over-think it. Just take the first step and let your heart and mind come along at their own pace.