Advent Reflections- Bring Your "A" Game

November 30, 2015

Advent-Reflections300by Bishop Goodpaster

“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise … I will cause a righteous branch to spring up … he shall execute justice and righteousness.” (Jeremiah 33:14-15)
When coaches or leaders suggest that team members bring their “A” game the challenge is that everyone will have to be and do their absolute best to achieve the goal. Each person must come to the day, to the moment, to the game with their top attitude and ability. The prophet Jeremiah alerts the people to turn their lives toward God and to what God is up to in and for the world. It will require them to pay attention at all times and to anticipate God’s intervention. In other words, when it comes to faith, they are going to have to be at their best. Advent invites us into this journey of hope, as we await those coming days, the fulfillment of the promises, and the arrival of justice and righteousness. “Come, Lord Jesus” is the mantra for this season, and indeed for all the days of our lives. It is not, as Richard Rohr suggests, a “cry of desperation but an assured shout of cosmic hope.” (Preparing for Christmas, page 3) On the first Sunday of Advent, many of our churches sang the words of Charles Wesley in order to set the appropriate tone for the season: “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.” In the coming weeks many of us will be caught up in all of the trappings of the Christmas season as we decorate and wrap presents, as we check our lists two and three times, and as we try to maintain some level of sanity and balance in our lives. I believe we will have to be at the top of our spiritual “A” game in order to experience a holy Advent and a joyous celebration of the “righteous branch” springing up. Of course we will sing and tell the story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem but we will also look forward in anticipation and hope of the second coming as a fulfillment of those prophetic promises. Such a perspective will require us to be alert, awake, aware, attentive, and alive to God. These “A” qualities shift our focus from the endless rounds of parties, outings, and shopping excursions that our culture proclaims as the way to observe and have a happy holiday season. The “A” words of Advent have the power to shape our attitudes and transform our spirits, and move us from the darkness of this world into the glorious light of the dawning of God’s light and love. Dr. Ellen Davis, Interim Dean and Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School writes: “The alertness to which Jesus calls us is the opposite of ‘dissipation’ – wasting energy, time, attention, and the yearnings of our hearts on things that society holds to be important, although they often dull our hearts, desensitizing us to the signs, small and great, that God’s sovereignty is indeed breaking into our world. Advent is the church’s necessary response to the dissipation of the phony pre-Christmas ‘season,’ which threatens to deprive us of spiritual freedom. Be alert!” And bring your “A” game. BishopGoodpasterBishop Larry Goodpaster is the Resident Bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church  

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