Yesterday, I took a wrong turn on a street in Jackson. When I got to the next intersection, I was frustrated to see a “No U Turn” sign. After several minutes of wandering around in unfamiliar territory, I finally managed to find my way to my destination.
It occurs to me that the message of John the Baptist (Luke 3:1-18), which we will be hearing again during Advent, is something like the opposite of a “No U Turn” sign. John says in no uncertain terms that a U Turn is required. The Greek word metanoiete, which we translate “repent,” means to turn, to go in a different direction, to change perspective.
There are countless biblical examples of how God's way is not always the shortest way, or simplest way, or our way. God even admits it: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8, 9). Certainly, God choosing to be born in a barn and die on a cross doesn't seem to me like the best way to establish God's reign. Do you remember when Peter tried to suggest a shortcut to Jesus at Caesarea Philippi? Jesus’ response to Peter was, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (Matthew 16:23).
Advent is an attitude adjustment time that invites us to step back, turn in a different direction, and get a different perspective that will allow us to receive the amazing news of the Incarnation. Like a required U Turn, Advent directs us to do something that seems counterintuitive in order to get our lives headed in the direction God needs us to follow as our spiritual journey continues. And, for some of us hard-headed and stiff-necked people, the sense of it is in the doing of it.
I'll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ron Pogue
St. Andrew's Cathedral