Advent Devotion – Thursday December 13
The Rev. Dr. Sam Park, Professor of Preaching and Director of Doctor of Ministry Program at American Baptist Seminary of the West, and Pastor of Albany United Methodist Church, Albany, CA.
Finding an empty space
2 Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid,
for the Lord God is my strength and my might;
he has become my salvation.
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
4 And you will say in that day:
Give thanks to the Lord,
call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be known in all the earth.
6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said that we mold clay into a pot, but it is the empty space inside that makes the vessel functional. As we journey through this season of Advent and prepare ourselves for the coming of the Messiah, it is essential that we turn our attention from what we see and hear outside of us to the inside and make an empty space. Yes, we will later join the crowds to be part of the biggest celebration of the year: Christmas. But now, it is time for us to pause and reflect on what is inside of us and clean it up.
Both prophetic books of Isaiah and Amos were written in the 8th century BCE when the nation of Israel was faced with crises both inside and out. Internally people turned their backs on God. Oppression of the poor and neglect of orphans and widows were the defining reality of the day. Outwardly the nation was on the brink of collapse by the impending military threats from the surrounding super powers of the region. In those moments of urgency, God spoke to the people through harsh words of Isaiah and Amos and urged them to turn their attention to their insides and make an empty space. Certainly, God was unhappy with the way things were and God wanted them to turn around. But what strikes me is this; even in this harsh language are these words: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid… With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”
The same is true with Paul’s words to his beloved saints at Corinth: while there was disappointment and concern with people’s unfaithfulness to his teaching and his own leadership, Paul’s love for them is unchanging when he says, “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
The mid-term election was over a few weeks ago. But as the cultural war continues, we feel numb inside and out. It is time for us to pause and make an empty space inside; it is time for us to wait for the Word, the Word in Flesh.
Gracious God, hear us as we come to you out of the busyness of our lives, when we try to squeeze one more thing into an already hectic schedule. We so often allow our minds to overrun our hearts. Listen to our hearts this day. Hear our desire to create an empty space where we may meet you and be known by you. Amen.