I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Reflection: Joy to the Full :: Joy of Advent
By John Tillman
It is tempting to scramble all the scriptural sheep similes and parables into a mutton metaphor stew. But they don’t necessarily all apply to each other or mean the same thing. In today’s reading of the good shepherd parable we see signs of Christ’s advent and the gifts that he brings as the good shepherd.
Christ tells us that his advent as the good shepherd has a purpose—life to the full. Some translations say “abundant life” and some a “full and satisfying life.” Our problem is that our culture yawns at satisfying. Satisfactory is next to failing. But the secret to joy is in being satisfied, living “to the full.”
This isn’t to say the abundant life Christ promises is going to shortchange us. As we said at the beginning of Advent, we don’t need to lower our expectations, we need to raise our expectations above material things.
Christ the good shepherd comes with the abundant satisfaction that his sheep need. Rest. Food. Protection. Guidance. The gifts of the good shepherd are associated with recognizing the presence of the shepherd and Christ gives us two ways to recognize him.
The first is the manner of his coming. He comes in through the door. He IS the door. He enters our lives in a way that no one else can with a power no one else has and a purpose no one else can fulfill. When he comes in through the gate, it is his purpose for us to go in and out the gate with him.
This is not a reference to death or Heaven, but to companionship, and to being led to pasture in the scripture. When we walk through the scriptures together as a community, it is not our writers we follow. It is the Holy Spirit, our good shepherd.
The second is by his voice. In Advent and throughout our lives, we walk by scripture and prayer. The scriptures tune our ears to recognize Christ’s voice. Prayer teaches how to listen for it.
What are we waiting for?
In Advent we wait as sheep in the darkness. We have only one task. Know the shepherd’s voice. Follow it. Listen for the one who comes in the door, leading us with his tender voice into the Word and into the world.
Prayer: Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. — Psalm 85:9
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read More about Expectation Affects Anticipation :: Hope of Advent
When it comes to our expectations of Advent, we don’t need to manage them by lowering them. We need to raise them above temporal, earthly, material matters. We already know that what we receive will be beyond what we can ask for or imagine.
Read More about One Thing Needed
These female disciples each are immature in their own way when we first meet them. But in their final appearances in scripture, they abandon all for Christ, risking financial security, risking reputation, risking their lives to honor him. They show us, perhaps more clearly than other disciples, what it means to find in Christ, our “one thing.”
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