Advent, which begins this week, is no exception to this experience. It is the rule. God speaks – God arrives – and even though it is in the form of a helpless baby, the world is turned upside down. Shepherds quake. Angels sing. Mary trembles. Awe-inspired Magi bow in reverence. Joseph, a stunned carpenter, probably wonders if someone “else up there” could deliver him from the delivery of this child.
What was it all about? Faith, no doubt. All of these characters are asked to “leap” from their secure perches to land in God’s arms. They are all asked to believe that the baby, “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger,” is indeed the Promised One of God, a uniquely born gift to the world. Are we not all asked to believe the same?
And this Advent season is about listening to the voice of God. I am very much aware that when one speaks of “hearing God’s voice,” it might be time to call the paddy wagon. Great lunacies have been committed by individuals convinced that they were on a divine mission. Some of these insanities have crossed over into atrocity.
But to hear God speak, deep within our hearts, is not necessarily a sign of mental illness. It can be; just like finding Jesus’s image in a bag of cheese puffs or an icon of the Virgin Mary on the back of a piece of raisin toast at the Waffle House. It can be a manipulative way to dupe the spiritually naïve (or sell a pile of books just before the holiday season).
Yet, on those rare and unusual occasions, Annie Dillard is right: “The waking God may draw us out to where we can never return.” Yes, Advent means that God has spoken and will continue to speak. It means that God has and will continue to intervene. And in the process, God will demand ruthless trust. But, he is trustworthy, and will never leave you hanging.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.