Bill McKibben wrote that Advent is “the time to listen for footsteps – you can’t hear footsteps when you’re running yourself.”
This is an interesting view of Advent. Advent is the time that we prepare for the One who is coming. The point made by McKibben is that if we are running away all we can hear are our own frantic footsteps and the panicked pounding of our own hectic heartbeat.
We are eight days from Christmas. We have eight more days of seeking to find the time and energy to prepare the way of the Lord. In this last week or so, there will be great temptation to move with haste to get it all done. We will run from store to store. We will race from post office to UPS. We will travel night after night to all the Christmas socials and staff parties that we can muster. All the while the pressure might build and we will feel overwhelmed by the need to measure up. In these last days of Advent, perhaps more than at any other time, we need to be reminded to stop running so that we can hear the soft and gentle footsteps of Prince of Peace who is hearkening unto us.
C. S. Lewis, in his book Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, wrote;
“‘He came down from heaven’ can almost be transposed into ‘Heaven drew earth up into it,’ and locality, limitation, sleep, sweat, footsore weariness, frustration, pain, doubt, and death are, from before all worlds, known by God from within. The pure light walks the earth; the darkness, received into the heart of Deity, is there swallowed up. Where, except in uncreated light, can the darkness be drowned?”
A moment’s pause from running away from God and what God is doing, might allow us an opportunity to see that darkness and death are not the final answer. If we can listen for the steps coming toward us, we may come to know that God wants to draw us up to that loving bosom. This is comforting to me. During this Advent I am trying to come to grips with the notion that my limitations and weariness, my frustration and pain, my guilt and my doubt, is known by God from the inside out. That can only be true by the grace of what C.S. Lewis is extolling. God becoming one with us assures us for all time that God knows us entirely, absolutely, and thoroughly. Sometimes my limitations and fears, my frustrations and pains, my insecurities and hurts, cause me to run from God and God’s loving embrace. Advent is a splendid time for me to stop running. It is the ideal time to stop! Stop, and ask how I can make ready to accept the gift of incarnation. How can I prepare for the gift that is a God who cares enough to become one with us?
How about you? Are you on the run? Do you need to stop? Is your spiritual pace such that it does not allow for the sound of God’s footsteps approaching? What can you do to listen for the God who is walking toward us, seeking us out, and drawing us, with all of our imperfections, toward that Divine Grace that God offers? It is a good question for Advent ….I think.