He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of a dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
Yesterday, we took down our Christmas tree. I like to leave it up until Epiphany on January 6, but the number of falling needles encouraged us to move up the tear-down date. On New Year’s Day, grandson Waylan touched the needles and declared them as “very prickly.” As the needles have dried down, yes, they no longer have a soft feel.
I’ve been pondering my spiritual soul the last couple of days. The Advent blog has helped me keep a bit more focused during Advent. As a new year begins, how would I envision my spiritual journey going forward in 2012? I’m still pondering this.
There is one thing that I’ve discovered over the years about my spiritual life. It’s never stagnant. I’m either drawing closer to God or finding myself wandering away from God. It’s never just still. Sometimes when I desire for a closer relationship with God, it is easy. Other times, it seems the harder I try, the further away I feel.
As a pastor, this is the time of the calendar year that is a transition time; the time between Christmas and Lent. I know, can you imagine? My mind is already pondering Lent! I ordered some Lenten resources online today … just a little over a week after celebrating Jesus’ birth! But I’m not the only one thinking of this. I received an e-mail last week from the United Methodist printing house promoting their Lenten resources!
This has me thinking. Am I just gearing up for the next cycle on the Christian calendar more so than gearing up for my 2012 spiritual journey? If I just focus on the next season within the church year and forget to “water” my soul, soon I’ll become like our prickly Christmas tree: still looking like a Christmas tree (Christian) on the outside, but inside, dry and barren.
How do we prevent our spiritual souls from becoming simply dry? By being intentional, anticipating how we might help ourselves spiritually and then putting into place one or two things to help us along the way. Whether we make these decisions Jan. 4, Jan. 30 or Feb. 15, a little time pondering these things and then gathering helpful tools is the first steps in keeping ourselves from becoming a prickly Christian.
You see, when we become a prickly Christian, it becomes very easy to judge and value other people’s spiritual journeys more critically than we do our own spiritual journey. Then, we focus on where someone else “should” be rather than doing an honest assessment of our own spiritual soul. And when we begin going down this path, we begin to move into dangerous spiritual territory.
This verse from Isaiah reminds us that Jesus came like a shoot out of the dry ground. And while there was nothing “beautiful” about Jesus to attract us, we should so desire this. Yet, Jesus captures our pain if we allow him. Our barrenness, our prickliness can simply be replaced with the beautifulness of Jesus.
After removing the tree from the living room, I vacuumed the needles still lying on the floor. When we fail to water our spiritual souls, we begin to loose little pieces of our spiritual souls. And I don’t want my spiritual side to be broken down, piece by piece, only to get sucked up by the culture around me. The best way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to work on my spiritual journey on a regular basis. I pray we will all make sure this is a priority for us in 2012.
Let us pray: Saints, before the altar bending, watching long in hope and fear; suddenly the Lord, descending, in his temple shall appear. Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ, the newborn King.