Over the centuries, Advent has been a time of expectant repentance—part of our preparation for Christ to come into our lives. Today’s final blog in the series focuses on single-minded attention only to our own needs.
Händel’s Messiah includes the spirited “All We Like Sheep”, based on Isaiah 53:6. The chorus romps through somber matters that seem to call for repentance instead: We are, every one of us, like sheep. We have turned to our own ways and deserve the consequences.
Let me share some background on sheep-wandering, based on my childhood experiences watching flocks of grazing sheep up close.
When they’re awake, sheep are mostly grazing. Although they’re part of a flock, they feed as individuals, seemingly oblivious to each other. Heads close to the ground, they move from one clump of grass to the next, pulling up and chewing what they see in front of them. Only one problem: Their limited line of sight can draw them farther and farther from the flock. Unattended, they eventually scatter over the landscape. Their wandering pursuit of fodder increases their susceptibility to predators. The results? Separation from the flock and death.
Going one’s own way has consequences for people, too. Vulnerability is the eventual outcome of single-minded, heads-down pleasure-seeking—with little or no thought about those around us. Separated from others, we eventually face the consequences: Death-by-separation, whether metaphorically or literally.
In the middle of a pandemic, we may be tempted to go it alone, holding tightly to imagined rights, freedoms, pleasures or amusements as though we deserve them. But in these days of increasing numbers of COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths, we gain nothing from disregarding each other. For our own good—and that of the nation—we must repent of arrogant, selfish mindsets. This is a time in history when the good of others—the flock—must be uppermost in our decision-making.
There is always hope in repentance. Another truth we can hold onto tightly: We are not left unattended.
Our Good Shepherd cares for us….