Advent is a season of preparation as we remember Christ’s first coming in lowliness and look forward to His second coming in glory.
The preparation may take the form of reading a chapter or two in the Bible each day, perhaps the opening chapters of each of the four Gospels.
But in the hurry and pressure of the season, we might see it as one more time-bandit on our to-do list. It can all become something we are doing for God. All the joy gets sucked out of it. We worship or pray or turn the pages of our Bible, but our mind is on the next obligation we have to meet. We walk away tired, unrefreshed…not because the Word carries no power to recharge our batteries, but because we have not caught the spirit of Mary of Bethany who sat at the Savior’s feet with thirsty ears and a hungry heart for the one thing needful. Ah…what was the Lord’s beatitude? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
Psalm 1 says that the believer’s “delight is in the teaching of the Lord,” that is, in God’s Word, “and on His teaching he meditates day and night.”
What comes to your mind when you hear that word “meditate?” Some Buddhist monk sitting cross-legged on the ground, saying: “Mmmmmmm?” Some new-age mysticism that passes itself off as “Christian” meditation?
All true Christian meditation meditates on the Word of God. Period. There is no higher communion with, or connection to God than to pay attention to what He sets before us in word and sacraments. Anything else, anything less, is pretentious piety and self-centered posturing.
Something else about that word “meditate.” “Meditate” is really too tame of a word. The word can mean to slow down and say it out loud. In fact, the prophet Isaiah uses this same Hebrew word for “meditate” for a lion “growling” over its prey. Think of your dog gnawing on his bone, savoring and enjoying it. This is what it means to “meditate” on the word of God. We come here to God’s house each week, famished, the breath of life beaten out of us, hungry of heart…and then, as the Lord invited Ezekiel the prophet, and John the apostle in Revelation, He says: “Take this book and eat it!”
The ancient church fathers picked up on those visions and wrote the old prayer which says: “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them…” Maybe we understand this picture better than we think. When someone is really excited about a subject, we say: “He really eats that up!” Or we talk about enthusiastic readers devouring books. Jesus pictures faith itself in terms of eating in His famous sermon on the Bread of Life. Here is Christ’s Advent invitation: “Eat up!”