Friday, November 30, 2018

Paying attention

“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
 Shel Silverstein

            So often we listen to the “should not”, “could not”, “must not”, “could not be” words around us and we miss the wonder that is staring us in face.  We box ourselves in. 

            I am thinking about those pinhole cameras we construct in order to view a total solar eclipse in safety.  That little pinhole opens the shoebox and allows the viewer to look at the sun in wonder and amazement.  We can see what we have been told we “should not look at directly”.  We move beyond the confines of our boxed existence to participate in the wonder of the universe.

            This Advent my theme is “Days of Wonder, Days of Grace”.  It is an invitation to open ourselves to the wonder of the sacred story as we journey to the stable to receive the Grace offered through the Christ Child.

            For a moment, think about the “mustn’t”s, the “shouldn’t”, the “impossibles”, the “won’ts” of first century Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem as recorded in the birth narratives of the Gospels.

            “You must not marry her” was the prevailing wisdom facing Joseph when it was known Mary, his betrothed, was expecting a child.  That broke all the rules about honor and acceptability.  By all rights, Mary should not have been believed and she should have been shunned and cast out of the community.  Fortunately Joseph listened to the wonder of a dream, the visitation of an angel, and acted accordingly.
            But just when he resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,  for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
                                                                                    Matthew 1:20-21

            Zechariah found out the hard way that he “should not” question the divine revelation he experienced one day when he was tasked to perform the incense offering in the Temple.  There in the solitary space of the sanctuary he heard the “impossible” news that his wife Elizabeth, well past child-bearing years, would bear them a son who would be part of God’s redemptive plan for humankind.  Overcome with the restrictions of his knowledge and the “way things were”, Zechariah could not process his amazement at the revelation.  He was given some “quiet time” to reflect on the wonder of it all.
            The angel replied, “I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.  But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.
                                                                                    Luke 1: 19-20
            Zechariah’s silence and the unfolding of events in accordance with the revelation dramatically changed his life.  His prophecy in Luke 1:67-79 is a passionate affirmation of his wonder made real.

            Mary was confronted with the ultimate “impossible”.  She too had a divine visitation.  She was told that she had been chosen to bear the Christ child.  Mary’s response to this wondrous declaration is “Impossible”!  Not so.  With God the impossible can become possible. 
            The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”
                                                                                    Luke 1:35

            Joseph, Zechariah along with Elizabeth, and Mary all experienced wonder – God present in and among the ordinary things of life.  Wonder is the unexpected glimpse.  Wonder can happen anywhere and at anytime.  Wonder is that which we see through that pinhole of our boxed existence.  Wonder frees us to new possibilities.  Wonder touches us with the Holy.

            This Advent season the invitation is to open ourselves to those moments of wonder.  How might God be birthing a new creation in us?  How might God be showing us a new path into God’s wondrous and gracious presence?  How might God be asking us to “repent” – to “turn away” – from cynicism and skepticism and leave our sheltered box behind? 

            The days in Advent, and all times, are days of wonder.  Advent takes us to the stable where we experience Grace in the form of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, born on Christmas day.

Grace and Peace
Rev. Clara