advent2The prayers of the day during Advent open with the rather provocative phrase “Stir up…” I have been thinking a lot about those two words and what they mean for this season, for the beginning of a new church year, and for our walk as disciples. Be it a stirring up of hearts, wills, ways, waters, minds, power, or whatever, this petition is not for the shy and faint of heart. To “stir up” is to change things, to move, to mix, to incite, to kindle, or to ignite. The question then, it seems to me, is do we really mean what we pray? Do we want the change for which we so fervently pray? Are we truly ready to be Advent people?
 
Change involves discomfort; sometimes it even involves real pain. Our gospel today recounts the story of John the Baptist and his call to repent and be engaged in the work of God’s reign. God has done and continues to do a new thing in Jesus, bringing the kindom of heaven into our everyday lives and inviting us to be an active part of this new way of living and being here on earth. In Advent we have a foretaste of this reality as we watch, wait, and look for signs of God’s presence and action.
 
Yet just as change is difficult for human beings, so is recognizing the signs of God’s activity in the world. We are such busy people. We rush here and there, to and fro, from sunrise to sunset, even the youngest among us are constantly on the go. In our bustle and doing, it is easy to miss the presence of God that is here, there, and everywhere. When was the last time you spent an entire day simply “being,” attuned to the moment, living fully in the present, aware of God’s work and will in your life and in your relationships? For a few disciples this may be regular practice, for many it is often desired but only occasionally realized, and unfortunately for most folks it is not even a random blip on life’s radar screen.
 
Perhaps Advent should come with a warning label so that before we pray, we fully understand what we are asking God to do.
 
Don’t quench the Advent fire; fan the flames. Or, as St. Catherine of Siena said, “If you are what you should be, then you will set the world on fire.”
 
 

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