Open your present

Sermon for Advent 4


Let it be unto me according to your word.

God comes to us in the present moment.

During this time of year, it’s easy to find ourselves on a crazy seesaw swinging between the past and the future… up and down… sometimes leery, sometimes thrilled, as we remember Christmases past and look to the future… whether it is tomorrow with whatever individual or family experience it will hold… or to the coming of the Christ (and what it might mean for us)…

I was thinking of this when I meditated on this morning’s reading.

Mary certainly had plenty of dreams for the future, for her life with Joseph… and she shared a vast traditional knowledge of the past with other Jewish people, who possessed an acute sense of their place in history and of God’s faithfulness to them.

Yet her YES as Luke tells us her story, her YES which stands between the past and the future, takes place entirely in the present.

Did she have a choice? one of my friends asked last night. I believe she did. Our Christian tradition names her as the Second Eve, and since Augustine at least, much has been preached and written about the choice of Eve number one.

I believe our God is a liberating God, who frees us from internal and external bondage, so I wish, and need, and resolve to believe that Mary did choose her YES.

It’s only in the now that we can say yes. And it’s this now … the present moment.. I want to talk about this morning. If Mary had not been able to stand in her moment, as terrifying as it must have been…she may have dreamed of the past or cringed before the future, but she would not have been able to say yes at all… that brave, free YES that we believe changed everything.

Think of it!

One of my friends has a poster on her wall, that reads… “The past is history/ the future is mystery. The present is God’s gift. THAT’S WHY WE CALL IT THE PRESENT.

SO I invite you to consider… that coming in to the present, in the most profound way, is really life changing. It’s not just for mystics, or meditators. It’s not an optional add-on to Christian life, it is what makes life alive by connecting us with the source of life and health.

In chapter six of John’s Gospel (6:52-65) we read how, late in Jesus’ ministry, some of his disciples found his teachings really hard. They were starting to desert him

“So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.

A couple days ago, one of my friends told me about her granddaughter who has just turned three. This child is making new connections every minute. Last week she learned the concept of “charging.” She has a new toy, a robot dog that can hear, process, and obey her commands… Sit down. Come here…It obeys her immediately…. for a certain length of time… and then it needs to be plugged in and recharged. She observes this process with wide eyes. CHARGING, she says. Later on that day, after she has played with it non stop, the battery runs down again. She brings it to her mother. “Dog is sick.”

Maybe you find yourselves a little low on energy too, on the morning of the shortest possible Advent Four… Advent Four… which begins today… is supposed to be our week in church life set aside to ponder the theme of love… a week that only lasts until sunset today. So let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

Charging—getting filled up with energy— can’t happen in the past or the future. It only happens in the present.

God’s love, and God’s lifegiving word, is already IN us and WITH us. It is our source of health! If we feel sick… in any sense of the word… we need to reconnect.

You know when you’re connecting because you feel renewed energy. New life. You get it from what you are deeply drawn to …

Maybe you are drawn to holy scripture and church life.
Maybe to singing, or dancing or painting
Maybe you are energized by cooking for yourself or your family or friends
Maybe by making or fixing something, or learning something new
Completing a work or school assignment; reading a student’s homework or exam.
Practicing an instrument or another skill
Doing yoga or running or playing a sport or meditating
Enjoying music… not just in the background but really hearing it.
Taking care of a family member.
Listening to a friend …or helping a stranger.
Being listened to. Reading. Praying.

The WHAT … is less important here than the HOW … the internal movement. Where do you really give your attention and find yourself being re-charged. You know, in your heart, what connects you most securely with life.

You do need to keep alert. You are alive, after all, and change happens. We are not robot toys. So with that disclaimer, I want to reiterate that life is renewed when we connect most deeply with what gives us energy…. That’s when life is being renewed, not in the past or the future … in the present moment. Sometimes we achieve what a Stanford psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as a FLOW state… when time itself seems to change … when you connect up with your energy source.
Does this sound, um, weirdly SECULAR to you? I don’t think it is. We are promised that Christ is FOR us, but do we actually let the God life… the fullness of it… accompany us in the course of the day? Or do we leave God all wrapped up in a pretty box, maybe in the correct liturgical colours… safely on a shelf somewhere… … while we live out our daily lives at home and at work and in our relationships? You know, that box on the shelf is NOT GOD. God is more than a concept—God is our source.

And honestly if we let ourselves know it, we already know how to connect.

So, right now, on the Eve of Christmas, I don’t just invite you, I beg you to open your present.

I’d like to close with part of a meditation by Karl Rahner

Jesus, it is said that you will come again,
and this is true.
But the word again is misleading.
It won’t really be “another” coming,
because you have never really gone away.
In the human existence that you made your own for all eternity,
you have never left us.

But still you will come again,
because the fact that you have already come
must continue to be revealed ever more clearly.
It will become progressively more manifest to the world
that the heart of all things is already transformed,
because you have taken them all to your heart.

Behold, you come.
And your coming is neither past nor future,
but the present, which has only to reach its fulfillment.

Now it is still the one single hour of your Advent,
at the end of which we too shall have found out
that you have really come.

Thanks be to God!

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