Let Us Walk in the Light of the Lord

Written by Joel on December 20th, 2010

Nov 28, 2010
1st Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 2:1-5

Notes:

What are your Advent practices? How do you mark the season? I mean other than shopping. How do you engage in the spiritual richness of the season?

It is, almost a magical time of year. And things seem to change so suddenly from regular time to the Christmas season. Nearly overnight the greens and the lights come up and people sing songs of the coming Lord incarnate. Carols and songs are everywhere: on the radio, in the stores and in our homes. Just yesterday morning I saw snow flurries. I even think it smells a bit like Christmas – when it gets to be just cold enough that the night air changes. These changes, this marking of time helps us to recall that there is indeed something special about this time of year.

The texts today present somewhat of a challenge. Every year on the first Sunday of Advent the scripture readings are meant to point us not to the first coming of Christ but to the promised second coming of our Lord in his glory. St. Paul’s letter urges vigilance – stay awake, be ready, for you do not know the hour when the Lord is coming. The Gospel warns that the end will come like a thief in the night. But our Old Testament reading presents what I think may be a different way to approach this Adventen season, that of a walk in the light with the Lord.

When I was a kid, I hated going to church. I couldn’t tell you why, maybe I just preferred sleeping in. Our family attended church only occasionly. More frequently than Christmas and Easter, but certainly not every Sunday either. My dad would joke that we haven’t been to church in a month of Sundays. I remember quietly rebelling anytime my folks got the idea that any particular Sunday would be a church going Sunday. I would pull the blankets up and over my head and pretend to be asleep, pretended not to hear anyone yell for me that it was time to wake up. If I were asleep, I thought, or at least laid here long enough to keep from getting ready in time then we wouldn’t have to go. I’d have a lazy Sunday for video games. Sometimes I was successful, other times not. But we were still occasional attendees and not much changed, either in our attendence record nor our spiritual journey.

Then one year, out of the blue, something changed. I was probably around 12 or 13 years old. My dad announced in a family meeting that we would start going to church every Sunday at least for the season of Advent. No reason was given, and no discussion; but this was certainly a monumental committment for us – 4 Sundays…in a row? I’ve asked my dad about this particular change in our family’s piety and why he brought about the change but he honestly could not recall, and certainly could not pin down the year everything changed. Well, we went to church according to his plan – every Sunday in the season of Advent. Hope, peace, joy and love Sunday and of course Christmas eve – even arriving for the cantata which preceeded the service by a whole hour. We had our family Christmas, got presents, enjoyed dinner and time off of school .

The Sunday after Christmas, the 4 week obligation was up, but we found ourselves back at church and nearly every Sunday after that.

That first Sunday of Advent nearly 15 years ago was but a step on my spiritual journey which continues to this day.

I love the imagry of Isaiah’s vision in our first reading today. The mountain of the Lord. All the nations flowing to the Lord’s temple like a stream. Think about that for a moment, the nations streaming up to the mountain of the Lord. Streams don’t flow up to mountains, the flow down from them. People so desiring to be close to the Lord. Something quite odd is happening in this vision indeed, something guided by the hand of God.

It is also a vision of peace, of breaking down weapons of war in to tools for the building up of society. Swords into plow-shares, spears into pruning hooks. And here it is not something God does with his might hand, but it is something the people do for themselves. They will train for war no more – we will know peace throughout the world. This is certainly a vision of a time set apart from our own which has seen a great deal of war just in the lifetimes of those present today. This is not just a hope which Isaiah shares in his own word but a promise of what is to come.

Surely the church in this vision is not the church in which we are worshiping today, but I can’t help but notice the connections with our worshiping community:

Our little white church on North Mountain Road, over looking a small valley, surrounded by the mountains. You may have woke up this morning and thought something like the words in the vision – “Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of God. There we will learn the ways of God, we will walk his paths.” This little church on the mountain has been for many, a step on the path of a spiritual journey.

The forested mountains for me have always been a place of spiritual renewal. Another place on my spiritual journey was middle and high school church camp. Where I grew up the regional church owed two church camps – one in the woods of Maryland for the middle schoolers and one at Bethany Beach, DE for the high schoolers.

Now you might think I preferred the beach to the woods, for reasons that might be obvious for a teenage boy. But looking back I always found more spiritual renewal at that retreat in the woods of camp Mary Mac. Most days were fairly structured – waking up at 7am (quite the contrast to my every day routine as kid on summer break) We would convene for “morning watch” which was private devotional time spent with scripture and a journal, surrounded by the birds and the morning dew. Just me and God. We had morning and evening program where we learned stories from the bible and interacted with them in new ways finally closing each day with worship next to a camp fire. A place of deep, meaningful worship. I remember feeling so close to God during the moments. Those formative years were quite a significant stop on the spiritual journey, walking in the light of the Lord.

I haven’t been back to that particular stop on the spiritual journey for many years, and have to admit that I haven’t felt quite like that for sometime. But, I think it may be because I continue on my spiritual journey to places I have not yet been; and God does not take us backwards. He walks with us in the light to the mountain of God.

Looking back to these mile-markers I can identify certain elements which were helpful for me. The most important helpful element of that time was its set-apartness. It was different from everyday life. We slept in cabins, and sleeping bags away from home; surrounded by different people and with a different settings and activities. Something was just different about the whole atmosphere of that place – and it lead me to a deeper place of prayer.

I believe that Advent can be like that for us. Here even our worship setting is new and set apart – with the purple paraments, the poinsetias, and the greens on the doors. Beyond this gathering place we hear the carols everywhere we turn and see signs of the season. This Advented season is set apart – and that is an opportunity.

The Advent which begun my first spiritual journey those many years ago was a conscious decision to change one thing over a short period of time meant to bring our family closer to God. In our family we create a home Advent wreath, light a candle each evening before dinner, we read scripture and a prayer from an Adventen devotional. You may find your walk leads you to serve others, you may find time for private spiritual reflection,

perhaps you will be lead to join this spiritual community in worship throughout the season, to read the navity story in detail.

I hope for each of you that this Advent season will be for you a spiritual journey. Remembering that the journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step. You might not find a profound spiritual experience this December, but walking in the path of the Lord will bring you closer to the incarnate Word whose coming we celebrate this season.

Come, let us walk in the light of of the Lord this Advent.


 

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