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Allowing Ourselves to be Found by the King of Love

December 6, 2011

All our Advent talk of letting the Lord prepare us for his coming assumes, of course, that we do actually want him to come into our lives. But is this actually the case? The answer to this question will depend in large measure on why we think he wants to come. Over the years, I have sometimes gone through an exercise with people in which I say, “Imagine Jesus is in the room physically right now. He walks up to you, and puts his hand on your shoulder to lean over and talk to you. What do you think he says to you?” I’ve been struck by how many times people’s first reaction has been fear. As in so many of the Biblical stories, “Do not be afraid” would be the first thing that needed to be said.

How much, I wonder, of the busyness of our lives – including those of us who are Christian – is to avoid encounter with God because of our fear? How much is running away and hiding from God, like Adam, because we feel naked (unprepared)?

We talked on Advent Sunday about waking up and keeping alert. I think most of us think of this as an admonition to be aroused from or not allow ourselves to drift off into a pleasant stupor. But I would like to suggest today that this sleep may be more like a nightmare. I was on the Dreams.ca website recently, and read the following account of one person’s attempt to be set free from a recurring nightmare by waking up to reality: 

After many recurring nightmares where I’m pursued by some terrifying figure, I finally experienced the following breakthrough. I was in a frantic car chase with the pursuer right behind me. Swerving into a parking lot, I bolted out of the car and ran with him hot on my heels. Suddenly, the scene seemed familiar and I realized that I was dreaming, though the lot and trees still seemed more real than ever. Drawing upon every ounce of courage that I had, I swirled to face my pursuer, repeating to myself that it was only a dream. Still afraid, I screamed at him, “You can’t hurt me!” He stopped, looking surprised. For the first time I see his beautiful, loving eyes. “Hurt you?” he said. “I don’t want to hurt you. I’ve been running after you all this time to tell you that I love you!” With that, he held out his hands, and as I touched them, he dissolved into me.

Isn’t that the case with us? Our Lord wants to come to us because he loves us, and wants a relationship with us, but in our sleeping state we don’t realize it. He wants us to wake up from the nightmare of seeing him as a pursuing tyrant so that we might encounter him as he really is. Think of the wonderful imagery from today’s passage from Isaiah:

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with might … He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep (40:9-10a, 11).

This is what One who desires to come into our lives is like – the King of love our Shepherd is, seeking all of us who have strayed and lost our way, so that he may gather us close to his loving heart and carry us home to be with him forever.

So today, let’s receive the gift of peace that comes from stopping hiding and running and allowing ourselves to be found. Let’s let go of the fear that moves us to try to prepare ourselves for Our Lord’s coming. Instead, let’s look into God’s beautiful eyes of love, see God’s nail-pierced hands held out to us, and “do a 180” and turn to God. Let’s allow Our Lord to prepare us for himself – cleansing, renewing, filling, and working through us by his Spirit to remove all obstacles that prevent his loving reign’s being experienced by all.

Then our voices will join with the chorus of creation: Come, Lord Jesus, come!

(adapted from the conclusion of my sermon at our December 4 Services)

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The painting at the top of this posting is “The Lamb,” by Stephen Sawyer (born 1952). Stephen specializes in paintings of Jesus’ earthly life, and many of his works speak to my heart. This painting, and the paintings entitled “Calvary,” “Silent Night,” “The Good Samaritan,” and “The Last Supper,” are my favourites. You can check out and purchase Stephen’s paintings by clicking here.

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Excluding the Gospels, Paul’s letter to the Romans has been described as the Himalayas of the New Testament, with chapter 8 being Mount Everest. In the Old Testament, excluding the Pentateuch, the Book of Isaiah and Isaiah chapter 40 have been given similar designations. We’ll be spending more time allowing the words of Isaiah 40 to speak to our hearts when we gather together for our Blue Christmas Service tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

In 1976, Bob Dufford wrote and recorded (as part of the St. Louis Jesuits) “Like a Shepherd,” a beautiful song based on several parts of Isaiah 40 and Matthew 11:28-29. It is embedded below:

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