Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 5 Sermon (Advent 2)

“Simplify, simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden.
Simplify. For Thoreau, this meant living outside Concord, MA and its people by going to the edge of the woods, to live off the land in Walden. He simplified his life so he could “live deliberately” as he put it. The idea of simplifying may seem like a killjoy, taking all the pleasure out of this time of year. But certainly that was not Thoreau’s idea, “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” And that’s what made him change his life.

Certainly when John the Baptist preached on the edge of a river, calling people to repent from sin, he did this so people’s lives could be changed, that they would mark a new direction. Advent is such a change for us, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the times, Advent is all about patience and anticipation.

Ask any pregnant mother what it means to live with patience and anticipation of a joyous birth! Ask any child right now about Christmas, they are practicing patience (as best they can!) as they anticipate their Christmas gifts.

As our society engorges itself on everything Christmas, our season of Advent can be helpful to maintain balance when the season can be too much hustle and bustle, too much buying, too much of well, everything. The season of Advent anticipates the birth of Christ and Christ’s return, and we celebrate such an event through the parties we have, the gifts we give and the merriment of the times! All good things!

And shouldn’t we be the most joyful this time of year as we anticipate our savior’s birth and await his return? If we aren’t, then we need to ask why?

As I sat with this question, why we are so discontented sometimes, I thought of a life we celebrated this week, a beloved member of this community, Jane Cottle who along with her husband Bill have been members of St. Peter’s for 53 years. And not just members, they have been active members in all aspects, their sweat, their tears, their joy, their time, talents & treasurer have helped with our mission and ministry.

But when anyone talked about Jane, it was her infectious smile they remembered, along with her wit, her wonderful one liners, those great interactions with her, it wasn’t the stuff of life they remembered nor was that what she loved. It was her family and friends.

That is what Advent calls us to do. As we await with patience, the coming of God into our midst, we are to remember that what is most important, is to share our love, with family and friends and even strangers. A
chronically ill toddler could not always go along with her brother and sister on their various adventures. But at Christmas time, Mom and Dad assured her that she would get to meet Santa. For weeks the little girl spoke of nothing but her coming visit to Santa; Mom prayed for a Santa who would live up to her daughter’s expectations. Finally, on one of the sick little girl’s better days, Mom decided to take the chance.

In order to avoid lengthy lines, they arrived just as the mall was opening and Santa was settling into his big chair. When the little girl saw him, she squealed, “Santa Claus!” and darted past the assistant elves toward Santa. The slightly startled Santa greeted her with a big smile and swept her into his ample lap. She snuggled in, stroked his beard and uttered in joyful awe, “Santa!” For several minutes, Santa and the little girl talked and laughed like two old friends, oblivious to the small crowd gathering to share in the magic of the moment.

The toddler’s mother stood nearby, her eyes filled with tears of joy. Just then, a man edged over to her and, to her surprise, she noticed that his eyes were as moist as hers. “Is that your little girl?” he asked quietly. The woman nodded. With a catch in his voice and quiet pride, the man said, “Santa is my son.” [Ruth Dalton, Catholic Digest.]
Advent and love go together. Gifts are just tokens of that love. Parties are those celebrations of love, but what matters most is our relationships.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” ~ Hans Hofmann
The necessary is what we do for others, in the love we share. For this season of Advent is our time to suck the marrow out of life in wonderful anticipation of what is to come. To hear, John the Baptist calling us to repent, to not gorge ourselves in a Christmas that began weeks ago that is all centered on shopping and stuff.

It is the journey we make to Christmas, all the steps, all the preparations that will make Christmas into the joyful event we want it to be. Full of hope and peace, full of joy and anticipation, where life is ready to repent and to forgive, where life is ready and eager to simply meet Christ again this Christmas. Amen.

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