Monday, December 8, 2014

Sunday's Sermon - Advent II - Comfort, Comfort

Isaiah 40:1-8
Mark 1:1-8

     The poet, Clementine von Radics said this, “You silly little girl, you think you’ve survived so long that survival shouldn’t hurt anymore.  You keep trying to turn your body bullet proof.  You keep trying to turn your heart bomb shelter.  You silly thing.  You are soft and alive.  You bruise and heal.  Cherish it.  It is what you are born to do.”
Living is hard.  And so, it is no wonder that we have Isaiah’s words for us today…  “Comfort, O comfort my people.”  We are all looking for that comfort, for that reassurance in hard times.  We are all looking for a sense of peace in the face of adversity.  We are all looking for salvation from whatever we are struggling with.  I saw a post the other day, “If Comedy is tragedy plus time, I need more time.  But I would really settle for less tragedy to be honest with you.”
But even as we yearn, we want, we ask for comfort, Advent is also the time of waiting.  That comfort doesn’t come right away, we aren’t healed instantly, the resurrection comes in steps, over time, sometimes so slowly we don’t even see it.
The journal, “spirituality and practice” lists several things we can do during advent to signal our willingness to wait, our commitment to waiting during this Advent time.  These are:  Let God sit in the director's chair.  Give up your fantasy timetables and go with the flow. Do not try to push the river; all will happen in God's time.  Let go of any negative images you carry around about waiting. Have faith that all good things come to those who wait patiently.  Grow through periods of waiting that entail darkness and dread.  Work to reduce your anger and frustration about waiting.  Always be a person animated by hope.  Take time during periods of waiting to count the many gifts and good things in your lives.
These are great suggestions and yet, I admit from a personal perspective that I don’t wait well.  I get really impatient and easily frustrated.  Yesterday was a perfect example of this.  I’ve had my computer for over a year now, which is in itself an amazing thing since I seem to zap computers as well as other electronic devices, as many of you know.  But it has been a long time and so now my computer appears to be in full-collapse mode.  It runs extremely slowly, and it freezes up on a regular basis.  I’ve taken it to Geek Squad several times.  They “fix” it and usually it comes back with more problems than when it left.  Again, this is typical for me.  My electro-aura simply zaps anything and everything electronic, and since I use my computer a lot, it tends to develop problems quickly.  Being in a close relationship with an IT guy who specializes in these sorts of things is not actually helping either.  The computer works for him.  Just not for me.  Yesterday my computer developed a new issue.  I was working on my sermon and wanted to use some internet resources that I had bookmarked and set aside for this Sunday.  But as I tried to pull up those pages that I had bookmarked, they failed to load.  I sat and watched as my lap-top connected to the internet, disconnected from the internet, connected and disconnected itself in rapid succession.  I ran the “trouble-shooter”, which told me the problem was not with my computer but with the router.  But since we currently have a plethora of computers, smart phones and other devices that connect themselves to the internet and none of these were having issues, I knew that no, despite the computer’s desire to blame something else, the problem was once again with my lap-top.  I became extremely frustrated, impatient, did not want to wait until things could be fixed or redone or set up in a new way.  I did not want to borrow someone else’s computer since my sermon was partly written on my own already, I did not want to deal with the waiting.  I wanted things fixed NOW.
But, as with every challenge, when we have eyes to see, we can choose to look at everything that happens as blessings from God.  This, too, in this moment was a blessing because it did call me to sit still, to wait, and to think about the lessons in that waiting, for me, in that moment.  The article from Spirituality and Practice that talked about the commitments we can make to waiting during Advent also talked about the spiritual gifts that come from the practice of waiting.  These include developing patience, giving up of control and accepting what IS, learning to live in the present, compassion, gratitude, humility, and most of all, trust in God.
Our culture has become more and more an “instant gratification” culture.  There is very little opportunity for us to learn patience, to learn to give up control over our surroundings and the things that happen to us, to learn to be wholly present in the present, despite whatever we have or don’t have in each moment.  There is very little opportunity, as we depend on our things, and on our toys and on the internet and our instant access to information, communication, resources, etc to learn to trust God for what the next moments might hold for us.  With all of that, is it any surprise that people are not as interested in faith issues?  For those who have not experienced needing to rely solely on their trust of God, and finding that that trust really is enough to carry us through, that God really is with us, why would we trust God?  If we haven’t experienced it, why would we do it?
Waiting is hard.  But God gives us this gift, and we have the chance to grow from it.  John the Baptist came paving the way for Jesus, inviting the wait before Jesus’ began his ministry.  Isaiah proclaimed the coming of justice, of comfort, of release from oppression.  But none of these things were instantaneous.  They were coming.  These passages were and are calls to live into hope while we wait.  To trust in God, while we wait.  To let go of control, while we wait.  To learn patience while we wait.
I think we will find that there are gifts even beyond those listed above in our waiting.  I found this quote as well…



There is something deliciously wonderful in the anticipation of the good that is about to come.  There is something amazingly wonderful in the moments before you open that first Christmas present, in the moments before you see a new baby for the first time, in the moments before that visitor you’ve waited for has come.  There is something incredibly life-giving in the hope and anticipation of Advent.  Experience it, live it, enjoy it.  For it is a gift from God.