Pastor's Corner: The Advent twist

·4 min read

Who doesn’t love a good twist? The director M. Night Shyamalan became an overnight sensation a little more than 20 years ago after directing the movie The Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment. Shyamalan kept making movies, each one with a big twist near the end, and audiences began to go into his movies expecting a twist.

The problem is that once you really expect a twist, it’s no longer a satisfying twist, and the audience satisfaction and reviews of Shyamalan’s movies went downhill fast. While at least for awhile Shyamalan was considered the master of putting a twist in a story, he wasn’t the first nor the best. For thousands of years the true master of the narrative twist is none other than God, The Creator.

We have seen twists in Scripture for thousands of years. Jesus’ teaching was so profound and impactful in part due to the unexpected twist present in most of his parables. While reading this, take a brief moment to think of a parable in the Gospels. What part of the parable stands out most to you? Chances are, it’s the unexpected twist. It’s the prodigal son being welcomed home with joy and open arms [Luke 15:11-32]. It’s the smallest seed becoming the largest plant [Matthew 13:31-32]. It’s the Samaritan being the one who stopped to help (although it has been so ingrained in us now that we use the word Samaritan to describe someone who helps, it was quite the twist when Jesus told it) [Luke 10:25-37]. When we are caught off guard, when we experience a twist, we remember … we learn … we grow.

The season of Advent is all about the twist. The tricky part for us is much like the audience of an M. Night Shyamalan movie — we know the twist is coming. While we know the major plot point, the birth of Christ, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other twists we may not expect. We hear in Isaiah 55 what it is that God desires, what God plans, for communities who follow: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1, NIV). The idea of churches, or even communities through food banks and other charitable organizations, providing food to the hungry is not an unexpected twist. However, did you expect to see wine in that list? We often give and provide with the goal of the recipient’s basic survival, but how often do we give (in any form) so that the recipient may celebrate?

We see a few verses later in Isaiah: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord (Isaiah 55:6-8).

There is a common misconception about Christians that God was not merciful until Jesus was born. Yet as we see clearly here: God has always been merciful, God is merciful, God always will be merciful — God has not changed. In the last verse of this passage we hear a reminder which we can never hear too often: God does not think, act, and respond in the same ways as us. When we view and teach God as responding the way we do then we are creating a god (lower case g) in our own image.

Advent is a time to prepare for the twist that we know is coming and to spend extra time changing ourselves now so that we may live into the promise God has given us with Christ. Let us live into the twist that we are called not only to give the basic necessities, but to celebrate and rejoice with all of God’s children. Let us fully embrace that God is not human as we are and be thankful that God is capable of such wondrous mercy and love that we will never be able to fully comprehend. May we “… go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will bust into song before [us], and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55: 12).

Rev. Dan Robertson pastors at First Presbyterian Church of Fairbury

This article originally appeared on Pontiac Daily Leader: Rev. Dan Robertson Pastor's Corner finds an Advent twist

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