Every once in a while I think it may be kinda neat to have a large banner created that could dominate the Windsor side of the church. The banner would be for Advent and would read something like: “Jesus is coming, look busy.”
Welcome to the second week of Advent where we hear the cry from John the Baptist, “Prepare the way of the Lord . . .” (Mark 1: 3). Essentially what John is saying, “Jesus is coming, look busy. I know that I don’t have to ask for a show of hands to see who is waist deep in the busyness and preparation that this time of year naturally brings. We are all busy. We are all busy with shopping, fighting traffic, running errands. Then there are the Christmas parties, School Carol Concerts and the myriad of other events and moments that help make the reason for the season that much more special. Then family arrives. Or we have to travel to family. By the time Christmas Day roles around we are exhausted. But the truth of the matter is, that it isn’t just this time of year that we are so busy and preoccupied.
Just about every conversation I have had with anyone, inevitably the same lament is made, regardless of the time of year. The conversation goes something like this: “Oh how are you?” “Fine, busy . . .” Perhaps you have noticed this yourself in your interactions with others. We are busy, life is busy and complicated. It doesn’t seem to matter what is going on, we could even be on vacation and the same line of conversation will inevitably pick up about how people are busy trying to cram in all the sites and places to visit.
As I have reflected on this and society’s tendency to be busy, it strikes me that in a way, being busy is also used as an excuse. “No we can’t go there this week, we are busy.” “No I can’t possibly sign up for one more commitment.” “I have worked for three weeks straight with no time off . . .” While any one or more of these reasons may be perfectly true and reasonable. I do believe that we as a society may be overplaying the “busyness excuse.” Because, it doesn’t seem to matter who, what, where or why anymore, being busy is a part of life and a way of life. With increased demands at work, the increased speed and capacity of technology that captures our attention, being busy, has changed and morphed into how we live and function in the world. More than that, being busy has become an idol that we hold up as a badge of honour, excuse or achievement. In subtle and not so subtle ways we are influenced and shaped by society and the world we live in. Everything from a busy and productive work life, a busy social life and vacations that are packed with places to see and visit all work to provide a sense of accomplishment and success. Even in retirement people are busy. Any number of retired people have commented that they are just as busy, if not more busy since they retired. It looks good to be busy. Being busy, whether we like it or not has become a modern day idol. An idol that we cannot help ourselves but feed and pay attention to in more ways than we realize.
In the midst of our preoccupied and busy lives, John the Baptist comes to us and proclaims his message to “Prepare the Way of the Lord” (Mark 1: 3). You see, whether we are busy or not. No matter what commitments and obligations we have to do today or this week, God is still coming. The King of Kings is still coming into the world, ready or not. Further, if we can just lay down the idol of busyness we may in fact realize that the King is already here and we barely recognize his presence in our hectic lives.
Friends, what John is saying to us, the People of God, is that we will always be busy. There will always be commitments and priorities that occupy our days and weeks. Regardless of all the busyness, God still comes into our world and calls you and me to also come and see and engage in the work of God. We still have to be the Church God calls us to be despite our busyness. To ignore, or shrug off the work of God because we are “busy” in a way becomes a form of sin.
Friends, the time is now. The time is ours. We, the People of God, have to make time for what is most important and precious in our lives. This is the day and now is the acceptable hour where we need to focus on those places and aspects of our lives where we find God and are life giving. The part that can often be overlooked in our Gospel today is recognizing that there are in fact two baptisms being talked about. David Jacobson in his article in Working Preacher .org this week comments that John’s baptism with water prepares the People of God for the coming of the Promised One. Jesus’s baptism, with the Holy Spirit, empowers the People of God for ministry and sends them on their way into the world. That’s us, we have been baptized by water and the Holy Spirit so that we can be empowered to go into the world, to carry out the work that God calls us into.
If we don’t pay attention to our ministry and purpose. If we are unable to make the time, and if we are not able to see God in our daily lives then any good in our busyness is wasted because it, nor anything else, will really matter or have purpose. The prophet has spoken, Jesus is coming! May he find us, his chosen people, committed and eager for the work he has planned for us this year and in the years to come.