Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent, Introverts, and John the Baptist

Those of you who have seen me give budget presentations at Conference Annual Meeting may not believe this, but I really am an introvert. Crowds tend to drain my batteries, not recharge them. A week long silent retreat I took a couple of years ago was a treat, not torture. I tend to internalize and be introspective, and when my sermons come out after a week of mulling, they do so fully formed.

Advent is the perfect time for introverts. We are invited, at the beginning of our church year, to ponder, reflect, consider as we await the coming of the Christ Child. We dissect once again the meaning of metanoia - does it mean simply to repent, or something more - to literally turn around, turn away, from that which is harmful, from that which separates us from our Creator?

And then, in the midst of our (quiet) internal discussion and debate, comes boisterous and challenging John the Baptist. What are we to do with you John? Uncompromising, unkempt, unabashed, and unapologetic. There can be no mistaking language like "You brood of vipers!" He demands our attention; he also demands our action.

The picture above (originally composed by Will Humes) was my idea for the Conference Christmas card this year. Alas, all of the rest of the staff vetoed my idea. With apologies to Tom Hanks, it's probably just as well. We don't really want John in our face, do we? We don't want to be directly challenged, do we? We don't want to be told that we may have wandered off our path a bit, do we?

John the Baptist shakes us from our quiet Advent strains of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, pokes us with a sharp stick, and makes us sit up and take notice. It's not all warm and fuzzy. It's not only about crèches and angels and a star in the East. It's about much more than that...

Whether your Advent be one of silent reflection, or something a bit more extroverted, I hope you find the space to both contemplate and act. We are great thinkers in the United Church of Christ: My prayer for our Advent season is that we are more than just a voice crying out in the wilderness - that we are also inspired to do. "Do" what needs to be done for ourselves, and "do" what needs to be done for our hurting world.