Listen closely

Published 3:40 pm Monday, December 2, 2019

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By Scott Baker

As we march through Advent, one of the major themes is prophecy. This coming Sunday, Dec. 8, we hear the voice of John the Baptist crying out to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. John is such a wild character. He’s dressed in animal skins, has a weird diet and seems to epitomize the idea of a true “wild man.” God’s message coming from such an outlandish character must have been compelling at the very least, and disturbing at most. Of course, hearing John the Baptist reminds us of prophecies that promises Jesus’ return to bring into completion God’s reign over the New Heaven and the New Earth. Advent is about developing the ears to hear God’s voice speaking to us today in ways we least expect it.

Thinking about John the Baptist, I was put in mind of the roll of prophecy in our own day. It concerns me that many Christians I know think that God spoke once long ago and has opted for silence since. Yet, the one thing that the Bible tells us over and over is that God is a revealing God. God is constantly trying to communicate to God’s creation and God’s people. Just as the people in John’s day had to develop the ears to hear, so too do we need to cultivate the same. All too often we think that prophecy and the prophets who proclaim them are fortune tellers or psychics predicting the future. However, if read through the lens of holy Scripture, God’s word spoken through the prophets had more to do with the here and now rather than the future. In essence, the prophet is a spokesperson more than a predictor of future events.

So many more people today identify as spiritual and not religious. However, I wonder how much of their spirituality is tinted with curiosity? To be spiritual and curious means to be eager and open to the revelation of the Divine will. What seems to hamper us (regardless if we identify as religious or spiritual) is that we limit how God reveals God’s will to us. We limit it to either holy Scripture or signs from above or some other confined and restrictive way. However, what tradition and experience tell us is that God will use various and sundry ways to reveal God’s will and direction in our lives and for our lives.

Listening closely to the world around us and the people in our lives can lead to some amazing epiphanies. However, before that happens, we must work on developing the ears to hear and sharpening our sense of curiosity to be open to God’s voice. I am convinced God is constantly attempting to communicate to us. However, we are often times too busy or distracted to pay attention. Perhaps Advent is about slowing down and taking time to be open to God’s voice but most of all slowing down to listen, and listen closely.

THE REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 562-4542.