Every Advent we meet the John the Baptist. There he is in the wilderness proclaiming “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” What is he saying? He is saying, “You have been living your life governed by something other than God; start living as though God were really in charge of your life.”
A church is a community of people who are trying to live as though God—and no other earthly authority--is in charge of their lives. Think about St. Paul’s ministry for a minute: What did Paul do? He went around Asia Minor and beyond planting small communities of people who believed that “Jesus is Lord!” Let’s be clear: Such a statement is an act of treason. In these small house churches, people were confessing that Jesus—not the emperor or any other governing system—was their ruler. They were saying that how we will our lives is not governed by the prevailing norms, but by what God has revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. You begin to see why St. Paul was killed by the state and the early Christians suffered persecution.
Our calling is no different today. We are called to live as though God—and no other earthly authority —is in charge of our lives. Therefore, think about how you might live your day with God in charge. You wake up in the morning and in a few moments of silent prayer you pledge your allegiance to God this day. You begin by being aware that God is with you and therefore there is in your midst a power that multiplied loaves and fishes. Therefore, rather than being anxious about what you will eat and drink, or whether you will have enough money, or whether you will succeed or fail at your appointed tasks, you still have what you most need—God. God’s presence with you is not a guarantee that everything will work out the way you want it to, but that even when things don’t work out as planned, you still have what you need. As a result, you begin to notice that you are a little less anxious than normal. Then, during the course of the day, you pause again to remember that the Lord who governs your life has a special concern for the “others” in our world. The other might be a Muslim, a Hindu, a homeless person, a person with a disability, or someone who doesn’t speak your language. Because God governs your life, you share God’s concern for the “others.” When most people are avoiding eye contact with those who are different, you move toward them with a smile and a kind word. Later in your day, once again having paused to remember that the one to whom you give your allegiance is a God of steadfast love, you remain steadfast in your relationships. When your spouse is going through a hard time, you patiently endure this challenging time. When a member of the church hurts you, you remain connected to them rather than writing them off.
A church living under God’s governance is an outpost of the kingdom. It is a group of people who know that the kingdom of heaven has come near. It is also a group of people who acknowledge during Advent that they too often give their allegiance to rulers other than God; therefore, they repent and begin again to live as though God is in charge.