Every so often someone comes to see me and says, “My life isn’t working out the way I thought it would. I never thought much of God and the church, but now I am thinking that a little religion might be good for me. I am hoping it will give me the support and the peace I need.”
I would be the first to say that I can’t imagine living my life without God and the church. However, I think we delude ourselves if we assume that opening our lives to God and joining a band of Jesus’ followers will somehow make life easier. Think about it this way: Was Mary’s life made easier when she said to the Angel Gabriel, “Let it be with me according to your word (Lk. 1:38)?” Was Joseph’s life made easier when he “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him (Mt. 1:24)” and took a pregnant woman as his wife? Were Peter and Andrew’s lives made easier when they decided to follow Jesus? Was Paul’s life made easier when he responded to his encounter with the risen Christ by becoming Christ’s chief evangelist? All of their lives became much more challenging and some even paid the ultimate price!
If we make our lives available to God, we will inevitably end up going places we didn’t plan to go and doing things we didn’t plan on doing. This is why Advent is such a dangerous season. Advent is dangerous because we gather together and long for God to come and be with us, and then God indeed comes and disrupts everything. We ask God to come into our lives and before we know it God is stirring up the pot. Before we prayed “O come O come Emmanuel,” we didn’t notice the lonely person across the street, the inadequate housing in our city, and the injustices in our criminal justice system. Now we notice them and need to do something about it. Before we started gathering with other followers of Jesus, no one asked us to get involved with God’s mission to those on the margins of society. Now we have people constantly inviting us to join God’s mission in the world, and we have to decide what to do. In all honesty, we may find ourselves wondering why the heck we ever joined the church in the first place.
Opening our lives to God this Advent won’t make life easier, but it will make life worth living. An easy, predictable, uninterrupted life isn’t much of a life at all. It’s a life that doesn’t need faith, hope and love. A challenging life needs faith. A life that sees the world as it is needs hope. A life that gets enlisted in God’s mission needs love.
So when you come to worship this Sunday be careful what you ask God to do. If you ask God to come into your life, it just might happen, and then who knows what will happen.