Have you ever noticed how fast paced are the lives of the prophets? That happens when they are filled with God’s command to speak His word so that His people might truly live the covenant. A prophet travels throughout a country, speaking that word with boldness to those in power and those without any power to lead them to conversion and a return to the Lord. Their lives are active and demanding. Elijah is an excellent example of that dynamism. He is so active that only God can keep track of him. At first glance, Elijah would fit well into our society at this time of the year. There is so much racing around to get to the pre-Christmas sales, that a Thanksgiving dinner is quickly eaten or skipped. So much that has to be done in order to have a perfect Christmas so let the baking, mailing, wrapping, decorating begin! Yes, it seems the fast paced life of Elijah would fit in so well to what many experience during this time of the year.
Yet for all his movement, there are many times Elijah remains still and waited upon the Lord. After a drought begins in Israel, God tells the prophet to go to the Wadi Cherith and wait. (1Kings 17: 1-6). Elijah does not speak with anyone, but he merely waits for God. After the great victory over the pagan priests on Mt. Carmel, he waits again in prayer for God to act a break the drought with life giving rain. Then Elijah waits on Mt. Horeb for God to speak. (1Kings 19: 9-12). There are many times in his life that Elijah waits upon God, realizing that he needs the Lord’s word, strength and direction to truly be a prophet. He comes to understand that there are so many things beyond him to understand or accomplish on his own. He dare not live apart from the living God. So the prophet waits and listens for God to speak.
Advent is such an incredibly rich season filled with the lavishness of God’s love and desire to save His people with the coming of His Son. Listen to some of the words of Advent found in Scripture: stay awake, be prepared, leap, sing, bloom, be with child, steady, watch, made low, filled in, raise up, be strong, be open, spring, receive, hope, climb, overshadow, peace, and rejoice. There are so many more that stir the heart and would cause someone to say, “I need that.” Our ancestors in the faith heard these words and longed for God to make them all happen. Like Elijah, they realized their own powerlessness as a conquered people. They keenly felt their sin and the struggles of life. They waited upon God, freeing themselves from distractions in order to be present and available to Him.
Return, O God of love, return, Earth is a tiresome place;
How long shall we thy children mourn
Our absence from thy face?
Those words from an early American hymn speak not only of longing for the return of Christ, but His presence in the present moment. If Elijah serves as a model and causes a person to be still and wait there is an awareness of the incompleteness of their lives that Christ alone can satisfy. Like our ancestors in faith they long for the Lord to fill in valleys, level mountains and make all things and peoples new. The racing around and making the unimportant vitally important distracts people from that awareness.
The word advent means the coming of a royal official and the preparation needed to meet him. Advent starts with the Lord’s second coming. It then shifts to His presence in the here and now before making a final preparation to recall His birth. To experience the richness of Advent, Elijah invites us to a cave or a wadi, a place free of distractions, in order to be still and wait upon God. The waiting can help a person examine life and finally recognize the sin and weakness they have ignored with so much past activity. The waiting can help focus a person on the emptiness in the soul that he/she sought to fill with stuff, accomplishments and achievements. The waiting and stillness can prepare a person for the advent, the constant coming of Christ with His forgiveness, love, salvation, indeed His very Self to make us whole and holy. It can lead a person to pray from the heart, “Come, Lord. Jesus.”
Listen to some of the words of Advent, really the words of God: stay awake, be prepared, leap, sing, bloom, be with child, steady, watch, made low, filled in, raise up, be strong, be open, spring, receive, hope, climb, overshadow, peace, rejoice. Do any strike you? Are those words enough for you to go to a quiet place and be still like Elijah and wait upon God in prayer? It could make Advent a rich time of a renewed relationship with Him.