By Susan Gillies
Advent is a time for spiritual preparation. In Advent we use candles as symbols of the coming of Jesus, the light of the world. We put lights on the Christmas tree, we even line the outside edges of our houses with lights. But instead of a deeply joy-filled attitude of love, the season too often becomes a time of frantic, overdone Christmas-mania.
In Romans 13 we are instructed to care for each other. We are told to wake up from our sleep. “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires,” (Romans 13:12b-14). The Message ends the passage with “Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!
This passage starts OK. It’s easy enough for most of us to turn our noses down at even the idea of drunkenness, debauchery, and licentiousness. But then it has to go on and mention quarrelling and jealousy. Oh, oh. A church I love dearly was nearly shredded to pieces a year ago by quarrelling and jealousy. And it isn’t the only church that has experienced this. Some of us spend more time judging than we do loving. We often ignore the sin in which we are engaged while condemning others. I wish we’d stop getting so angry with people who wish us “Season’s Greetings.” Respond with “Merry Christmas!” with a smile.
We are called to walk in the light. What would it mean if we gave serious thought to moving toward the light of Christ by living like Christ in these days of preparation? What if we set aside any frantic competition of the season? What if we simply operated in a spirit of love, preparing the way of the Lord? There is an old song with this refrain: “How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior, Stepping in the light, stepping in the light, How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior, Led in paths of light.” I think the idea is captured in words from one of the verses: “Walking in footsteps of gentle forbearance, Footsteps of faithfulness, mercy, and love.” This is the way of Advent.
Dr. Susan Gillies serves as interim general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA.