As Advent has approached this year I have found myself musing on mystery and otherness. I have found myself trying to grasp the dark, wild, otherness of the God who cannot be tamed, and yet who became flesh and lived among us. I have found myself opening up to a God who will not be trapped, confined, caged or domesticated, a God that the prophets understood.
I guess that’s why during these days of Advent we will hear the prophets and Isaiah, primarily, pointing us beyond. We will hear them condemn much of our religious practice which can stop us entering into mystery. This to lead us into a way of life where we are encountering a God who wants to overwhelm us with the power of love which always leads us to desire justice and truth.
Yet sadly most of us prefer unthreatening religion to the living God who breaks into our lives, shatters our understandings and turns us upside down. It's easier to go to church and live by a particular moral code than to let God into our lives. Of course, that, in its worst extremes, can lead to self-righteousness and condemnation of others. So, Advent reminds us to open up to God who is always more than we can imagine.
One of the great characters of this season is John the Baptist who immersed people into the real, wild, purposeful presence of the God of the prophets. He challenged those who came to him to meet the God who leads people out of captivity and slavery by the wild route. Look at the story of the Book of Exodus. God leads the people in the dead of night across the Red Sea into the desert. It's wild and unexpected. That's our God. Sadly, we have tamed God so much, this God who wants to break into our lives in unexpected ways!
John offered the God who can't be tamed, only followed. He offered the God who can fill the empty space within us that we try to fill with the new car, the new kitchen and the pension plan. John offers us the God who is always unexpected and indeed is the God of surprises.