December 18, 2008

Advent Basket Day 18 & Jesse Tree

Little stones are in today's Advent bag. The reading is Matthew 4:1-4. The parchment paper says, "Can you change these into bread? Jesus could". This scripture reading through verse 11 is a good yearly visit for children (and us adults!) to remember Jesus was tempted, and that the devil can quote scripture. Jesus answered back with scripture. I think I'd add Hebrews 2:18 and 4:14 into the reading as well.

I have mentioned that if you were doing the Jesse Tree Advent readings, by now you've read through the Bible's beginnings and the patriarchs of Israel's story up to king David. This week's readings are of prophets. Isaiah is called the Advent Prophet.

Yesterday's Advent reading quoted Isaiah, referring to the ears not hearing and hardened hearts. "Why do you tell stories?" "I tell stories to create readiness of hearts, to nudge the people toward receptive insight," said Jesus. And further on said, "A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance". That said to the disciples. Think of all we've seen and know!

Are our times today that different from Isaiah's? Their lives, homes, nation, families, wealth, and positions in society were threatened by an impending political disaster that would throw them all into ruin. They were in no spiritual condition to go through it all. Repent, turn to God in true conversion, proclaimed Isaiah. Put your hope in God.

Isaiah lived in the presence of God. Isaiah was asking for a restoration of true worship that results in justice and compassion. He saw that we can't simply decide to repent and be done with it. He asked God, "Why do You make us wander and our hearts hard, so that we don't fear You?" Repentance comes from God.

We can turn from wrong living and prepare for a breakthrough from God. We're not ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a manger - that's Christmas. We're Adventing - a preparation time to long for the coming of the Savior, a longing for redemption. We should use this time to soul search. Advent is a time to yearly review where our faith is placed and how our lives are lived. What powers might hold me: bad habits, undesirable relationships, vices - anything a blockage to my living by the spirit of joy and generosity. Advent calls us to meditate on the re/birthing of Christ in our hearts.

Jesus left us examples to follow, like even his desert temptation, that paschal mystery power is there for us. Prior to Jesus' desert trial, He'd been baptized by John the Baptist. So as John and Isaiah said, "Repent and prepare for God's arrival!"
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