There are many in our society searching for a new lease on life. Some are desirous of recapturing the enthusiasm they had when their journey of faith began. Others harbor doubts as to whether their lives have made any meaningful difference as they confront the latest list of complaints. Others have lost their ambition somewhere along the way, no longer willing to break out of their routine boredom. There are also some who keep busy avoiding the embarrassing skeletons in the closet.
In the midst of unrest, Advent reminds us that God has not abandoned us. The Christ event at Christmas offers the opportunity for the rebirth of our enthusiasm. God wants to save us from our wanderings and idolatries, embracing us in loving forgiveness in Christ, infusing new energy and excitement to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others.
Whatever our circumstances, God’s gift of enthusiasm will sustain and energize us to serve others. Countless stories can be told of dedicated pastors and lay persons who have served faithfully even when the results of their labor were not apparent. Nevertheless, they were at peace, knowing that their lives had purpose and meaning, giving them fulfillment and enthusiasm.
We need to approach this gift of enthusiasm in childlike wonder as we reflect upon God’s amazing grace. Within the depth of our being we need to rediscover again that God has come to give us life and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10). When this fact captures our imagination, our enthusiasm will soar.
To help us prepare to receive this special Christmas gift, let me suggest the following steps:
(1) Pause long enough in the midst of Advent’s busy-ness for moments of silent prayer and reflection. Review the reasons for your present unrest and dissatisfaction. You may wish to discuss your private thoughts with a trusted friend or counselor; re-evaluating where you are and where you wish to be may require assistance.
(2) Ask yourself if you are doing what you really want to do. Life is too short merely to exist; God wants us to enjoy life to its fullest. What’s holding you back from living with enthusiasm? Do you fear the risk of a new chapter in your life?
(3) List your present resources and liabilities. Do you need a “jump start” from your present boredom? Do you know how to ask for help and parlay it into a renewed spirit of enthusiasm?
(4) Develop a plan of action. Keep the plan simple. Ask God to keep you focused on your goal. Invite a friend or pastor to consecrate in prayer your “action plan,” for God wishes us well in our journey of faith. Our clear intention should always be to pursue the will of God, which is constantly unfolding and never envisioned in its final form.
(5) Finally, take your action plan, wrap it into a simple package and tie it with a ribbon of your favorite color. Present it to yourself on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Then on New Year’s Day give yourself a series of dates (call them benchmarks) by which you can measure your progress in the coming months. What will you find? You will begin to feel Divine enthusiasm gradually increasing within you, empowering you in your journey of faith while you are making a difference in the lives of others.
Posted Dec. 20, 2001
Carnegie Samuel Calian is president and professor of theology, Pittsburgh Seminary.