During the final days of Advent, the anticipation increases as the birth of the Savior draws near. In the seven evenings before Christmas, this anticipation is marked by the “O” Antiphons. This liturgical tradition from the earliest days of the Church emphasizes a different prophetic title of Christ as foreshadowed by the prophet Isaiah. These are included in Evening Prayer on the final seven nights of Advent.
The Second "O" Antiphon O Lord of Israel, come. Through bushes breathing fire, to Moses you gave Law; O come, redeeming Ruler, with arms outstretched to save.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew. “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:24-29
Matthew’s Gospel paints a vivid picture of what will happen in our life if we do, or don’t, hear and act upon Christ’s teaching IN ADVANCE OF when the storms come.
And the storms WILL come! The past two years in the pandemic are a case in point.
So HOW does embracing the teachings of Christ create a rock-solid foundation for the turbulence that life throws at us?
Embracing the teachings of Christ is a preventative measure, like building a seawall to protect ourselves from a storm surge. By living according to Christ’s teachings we learn to avoid sin, keeping storms at bay and US out of trouble with God.
For storms not self-induced, Christ’s teachings provide the means to withstand the onslaught, in at least three ways.
The first is realizing God is our loving father who wants the best for His family, which includes a plan for each of us. As we encounter turbulence, we can be assured God’s plan is at work and He has our best interest at heart. This gives us hope and moves us from self-pity towards constructive action.
Second, Jesus showed us to pray. Having a regular dialogue with God during a storm gives us the opportunity to make requests for assistance, or ‘vent’ about our condition. In Matthew 7:7, Jesus says “ask and it will be given to you”. And God has a way of answering, even when he doesn’t produce outcomes we want, meaning His plans are not our plans. Then, we know it’s time to rethink our expectations.
Finally, Christ’s teachings include how to deal with adversity. Whether its money issues, dealing with enemies, managing rejection, or directing emotions like hatefulness, referencing Christ’s teachings for productive and healing actions is wise counsel.
As we anticipate Christ’s birth and his future return during Advent, let’s celebrate the gift of Christ’s teachings that keep us rightly ordered in our turbulent world, able to withstand the inevitable storms life throws at us, until our time comes to be justified before God.
By Bob Cregg
Lord God, fill our hearts with zeal and our minds with saving knowledge of your way so that our actions will be pleasing to you. May your peace, which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.