Rev. James Long Minister of Pastoral Care

Rev. James Long
Minister of Pastoral Care

We are in the Advent season when we are called to be alert, to be awake. Something is coming. Something is breaking into the world. Of course,

this is Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah born in a stable.

The Apostle Paul writes: “Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.” (Romans 13:11) Paul was expecting the imminent return of Jesus at any time. Just as at the time of the coming of the Jesus so long ago, we are to be alert, to be awake.

Of course, it has been a long wait, perhaps not in God’s time, but certainly in human time. Two millennia separate us from the time of Jesus, and yet we are reminded each Advent to be alert, to be awake. 

What does this mean for us today?

My good friend and mentor, the late Dr. Arthur Sanders, told me that he was playing golf with a prominent politician who asked him: “What do you think of the Second Coming?”  Art’s response was: “He never left!”  This puzzled the politician. However, I believe that Art meant that the spirit of Jesus is with us every moment if we’d only wake up!

The late Jerry May, a psychiatrist at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, often said to those in spiritual direction with him: “Turn to God.” We do that in the moment, seeking God’s presence and guidance, bearing the responsibility to follow the way of Jesus Christ. In other words, the Holy Spirit is already here in every aspect of our lives.

This requires discernment, since we can often be misled into believing that

something is from God when it is not. Other voices may call us. Thus, we need humility, as we pray for God’s guidance.

The past Presidential Election was extremely divisive and contentious. We have come to the place in American politics where we tend to demonize the opposition, and as many have observed, we cannot stand to be in the same room with one another when it comes to political and religious issues on which we disagree.

A psychiatrist I heard on
NPR said that today we often are voting “against” a candidate rather than “for” a candidate, which increases the stress and the disappointment after an election. This apparently is exacerbated
by social media. He said we need to look more deeply at our own values for meaning and purpose.

As my friend Dick Wood wrote in Faith and American Politics, we become deeply “attached” to our political and religious ideas. When these ideas are challenged, it is often “fight or flight.” He says we forget that our truth is not necessarily the truth. This is not to ignore the tremendous gulf that divides the electorate, or that the issues, character, and elections truly matter.

The spirit is available to us, but we need to be alert; we need to wake up. As we discern the movement of the spirit in our lives, we need to have the humility to recognize that our truth may not be God’s truth.

As people of faith, we must hold to our deepest values, discerning God’s call upon our lives and how we are to go forward as citizens and a community of faith.