Thunder in the desert

Advent 3b – Sunday 11th December 2011
John 1: 6-8, 19-28

I’ve read a number of daily devotionals over the years. They been informative, encouraging, supportive and a useful part of my Christian journey of faith. Sometimes they’re confusing or frustrating, sometimes I can’t make a connection with them. But the challenge to engage with God’s Word, to see how it affects our lives, is a valuable and necessary tool in our daily journey of faith.
I know of many people who have shared this experience, and many people who now use the internet as part of their daily time with God.

Thunder in the DesertSo far, the Advent journey this year for me has been dominated by the presence of John the Baptist. I like John. He tells us the message in plain and simple ways, he doesn’t pussy-foot around, he’s a level headed, bold and courageous man of God. I’d like to read a daily devotional by John. It would be fascinating. I’ve got him down as a glass-half empty sort of guy, who’s stressing the urgency of the task at hand and the need to live every minute in full on kingdom life.

I don’t know what he’d make of the daily devotional I use. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good stuff. But sometimes you feel it’s a little bit corporate, or syrupy!

For instance, these are all first-liners from a three month compilation of extracts from my daily devotional:

  • Successful people allow their God-given passion and talent to guide them in life.
  • To succeed in life you must do these three things…
  • Here are two more life-changing principles: You must be willing to change unconditionally; and, change means accepting risk.
  • Until you overcome the fear of failure, you’ll be immobilised at the prospect of taking a risk.
  • Your life is like a camera; you’ve got to focus it correctly to get the right results.

All good stuff … especially with what follows in their help and advice. But what would John say?

“I’m thunder in the desert: ‘Make the road straight for God!’ I’m doing what the prophet Isaiah preached.”

Now, I know Advent is many things to different people. A period of waiting. A period of contemplation. A period of preparation.

But sometimes I’m right behind John, who seems to want to light a rocket and wake people up. What is Advent all about? Making the road straight. Going about the kingdom task – not just living the life yourself, but helping other people to that destination too. John is there. There’s a sense of immediacy. There’s a nearness to the kingdom. We’re not at the beginning of the story, this isn’t just about birth, God incarnate, following the star. But the good news of Jesus Christ is summed up in the Advent of hope – his birth, his life, his death, his resurrection – all of time and space, all of our hopes and dreams, all fulfilment and expectation, the here and now, the future tomorrow.

Advent is a time of great hope. Great reconciliation. Great healing. There is great sorrow too. But there’s a burning in the heart, a yearning for Christ to come, and to come decisively in our lives and in our world.

Thunder in the desert!

Happy days

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About Neil Chappell

Husband, father, Congregational Minister and football fan all rolled into one convenient package.
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2 Responses to Thunder in the desert

  1. Charis Varnadore says:

    I fear and regret that I may lose your input as I respectfully disagree with your understanding that your “results-oriented” devotional reading is great. To me, those few that you quoted remind me of the LAW, and with little, if any, room for GRACE, which is always a gifted surprise and by its very nature cannot be planned or focused upon. Can there be submission to the will of God with such self-willed focus? To leave you in a better mood, may I quote the opening of the book I am curently working on? “If the path to God is a journey, what do we do with all this baggage?” Peace…

    • Hi Charis,
      Thanks for your comments.
      I think I probably didn’t make myself as clear as I could this week – it didn’t help having to go home half way through cause the carpet fitters arrived!
      I was trying to make the comparison between John (whose message was all about the one to come and how we cannot even tie his shoe laces – the only connection being grace) and devotion that talks of success, etc.
      I was going to contrast the devotionals with my love for Despair Inc, but I’ve drawn that out before. If we’re only in this journey to succeed then we’re running the wrong race. The victory has been won, we’re being pulled along.
      Hope that clarifies not confuses any further!
      Happy days.

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