"You brood of viper! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance." - Luke 3: 7-8
Here, the eccentric John the Baptizer is like a rock star, with crowds mobbing him for an odd form of ritualized bathing practiced by a Jewish sect called the Essenes.
With many religious rituals—going to church, confession, communion, baptism, or celebrating Christmas—we often forget why we do them. John makes us stop and think.
I personally invite you this year to consider Advent your time of personal pilgrimage toward God. You can even do it in secret. Try it and see what happens. (I once did this with walking the Labyrinth.)
Unconcerned with a big crowd or "winning friends and influencing people," John called his fans "a brood of snakes," insulted their ancestors, and asked them (I imagine, since there is no video footage) in a scornful, booming, gravelly voice, "Why are you here? Did you come looking for a show or some sort of mystical high that you can use like your iPod, your stock portfolio, your good looks, investments, liquor, Lexus, drugs, or Christmas gifts? . . . . If that's what you want, leave now and take your toys with you!"
These are the right question to ask at the beginning of Advent or any spiritual journey.
Admit it. Are you here because of a ravenous hunger for an encounter with the Holy that nothing else has filled? If so, you're in the right place.
Let the Stillspeaking God be your guide. Daily, read these devotionals expecting a hopeful, life-changing experience all the way through to Christmas and beyond. Pray. Believe. Don't force it. Let it come. Let it wash over you. That's what I did with the Labyrinth. And before I could finish saying, "I knew this was . . . ," the Power and Presence of God came over me like a wave, despite my skepticism.
May the mystery of God surprise you as well as you read these Advent devotionals with us . . . and may you never be the same.
O God, I am not sure what I'm waiting for, but then perhaps it's not a what, but Whom. . . . O Come, O Come Emanuel, Amen.
Ron Buford is the Pastor of the Congregational Community Church of Sunnyvale, UCC, Sunnyvale, California.