The season of Advent has begun, and I couldn’t be any more excited! This is the fortieth Advent of my life, and yet I am discovering new things this year, just like every year. Such is the mystery of this season; God reveals new understandings and insights, no matter how many previous Advents you have experienced.
On my fortieth Advent, I am learning more about the effects of God’s presence on my attitude. Or maybe I should say, I am learning that when I am able to recognize God’s presence around me, it really affects my outlook, demeanor, and state of mind. I find myself smiling more for no apparent reason. I hear a Christmas song that in previous years I may have thought to be a cheesy ball of schlock, and I actually begin to tear up a little bit. You know, stuff like that.
And so I ask, is it because it is Advent and God is at work on me in some deep and powerful way, or is it because I am forty and getting sentimental in my middle age?
Who knows? As the prophet Isaiah says, “He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear.” Because let me tell you, if we did that we’d be in pretty big trouble, wouldn’t we? Our eyes see some pretty discouraging things; our ears hear some ugly stuff. If that were the limit of our perception, there would be no hope whatsoever.
But God has given us other senses with which to perceive the Divine Presence, spiritual senses that are tuned in to God at levels both underneath and above our consciousness. And that gives me hope.
Too often we limit our perception to what our eyes see or what our ears hear. Actually, we frequently limit it more than that. A lot of the time, we limit our perception to what someone else tells us it is. I mean, it IS easier that way, after all. A lot less thinking for myself.
But the perception of the one described in Isaiah 11 is informed by something deeper than mere physical senses - namely, God's righteousness (Heb. tsedeq). Perception shaped by God's righteousness leads to a special consideration for the poor and the meek, and a radical transformation of the world such that predator and prey dwell together in peace. Simply put, you just don't see things the same way anymore.
This Advent, may we all see and hear with the spiritual senses that God awakens within us. May righteousness be our filter as we wait for the coming of Emmanuel.