THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT
DECEMBER 6, 2020
MARK 1: 1-8
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Three weeks ago, we drove into the deepest darkness of rural PA. Deb and I were going to pick up our new puppy, Buddy. He is largely bichon, with father also being teacup poodle and mother also being toy poodle. (slide 1)
We had to put down our fifteen-year-old bichon, Lucas, so deb and I decided not to wait to get another dog.
We named him Buddy because we often called Lucas Buddy Boy.
Up until now, we have owned mostly rescue dogs, so this was our first time to prepare for a puppy.
Deb ordered supplies from chewy. I asked for advice from a friend in Illinois who raises wonderfully trained dogs. We bought a book on dog training.
We were prepared for Buddy within the confines of our home.
Food, food bowl, doggie bed, kennel for bedtime, and toys. Deb placed a piece of Astro Turf on our back porch with a wire fence around it, so Buddy had a place to go to the bathroom in bad weather. Prepared.
But when I look up the meaning of the “prepared” I discover that it means to bring yourself into a particular frame of mind with regard to the future.
And this “being prepared” turns out to be much more difficult than doggy proofing the house.
Deb and I are both active people, often going in different directions throughout the day.
How do we work out who needs to do what when and who has puppy duty?
He’s too young to stay by himself, so who watches him when the other person showers or runs errands?
And, by the way, we have a thirteen-year-old Maltese, Hana, who clearly was not prepared for Buddy. (slide 2)
I tried taking Buddy to the church office. Although everyone there adored him, I didn’t get much done.
As a puppy he wanted to find every raised thread on the carpet.
If I put him with patty in the outer office and close my door, he whines because he still needs to know where I am.
I have found out is that I must be more alert, pay more attention to, and stay attuned to what’s going on around me.
And, within the liturgical church calendar, this is perfect timing for me—and you—to be reminded of the theme of advent:
Wake up. Be alert. Stay attuned. Pay attention.
It’s as if the ancient church wanted to stress this very important spiritual discipline of staying awake and alert and being prepared at the first of the new year in sacred time. We must pay attention to paying attention.
The human condition, described in scripture, is that without consciously taking on this spiritual discipline of staying awake and alert, we are indeed asleep.
For example, when Jesus goes to the garden of gethsemane, he asks his disciples to stay and watch with him. He asks three times for the disciples to stay with him as he prays about his coming suffering. And three times they fall asleep.
This is the human struggle. To accept and stay awake to the world and the suffering in front of us.
When we don’t face what is in front of us, it makes us ill psychologically and spiritually. And this distorts and diminishes all of life.
Let’s remind ourselves that the root meaning of the word religion is to take into careful account.
The wisdom of Jesus and the scriptures and the wisdom of depth psychologists draw similar conclusions about the necessary attitude toward life.
Take into careful account.
Pay attention to this moment
Yet we all know the challenge to waking up, being alert, taking into careful account, paying attention to this moment.
That is, not every moment is something we want to pay attention to: all the moments that are annoying, upsetting, bothersome, hurtful, or negative in some way.
A minor example.
On Tuesday, I was printing the last of the songs I hope the band will play for our Christmas eve service when my printer ran out of black ink.
I had a replacement cartridge but it turned out to be damaged.
I’m sitting there after trying to see if the black ink cartridge would somehow work.
And I am irritated. I need to go to office depot in the snow. I start to feel as if I don’t have time for this.
What are the roads like?
What is the model of my computer?
What do I do with buddy who is in my office?
You know the drill, don’t you?
All these thoughts and feelings going around in the head.
But I have been practicing the welcoming prayer.
And I pray it in the moment.
And all those irritating thoughts and negative feelings begin to dissipate. And I am able to move.
I find the model number, get my coat and boots, put Buddy and Hana in the kennel and drive to office depot.
When thoughts and feelings start to crowd my mind, I just say welcome and they go.
The welcoming prayer is counterintuitive.
When negative situations, thoughts, and feelings get going, our first move is to try and push them away.
All this does is put us into an internal tug-of-war.
We want to let go, but we lock ourselves into an inner battle that we cannot win.
In order to let go of negative situations, thoughts and feelings we must first welcome them.
In this way, we remain open and present to the moment.
We remain alert, aware, attuned, and ready….
I was reading a conversation between Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift.
And Paul tells one of his favorite little Beatles stories.
He says, “we were in a terrible, big blizzard, going from London to Liverpool, which we always did. We’d be working in London and then drive back in the van, just the four of us with our roadie, who would be driving.
And this was a blizzard. You couldn’t see the road. At one point, the van slid off and it went down an embankment.
So it was ahhh, a bunch of yelling.
We ended up at the bottom. It didn’t flip, luckily, but so there we are, and then it’s like, ‘oh, how are we going to get back up? We’re in a van. It’s snowing and there’s no way.’
We’re all standing around in a little circle, and thinking, ‘what are we going to do?’
And one of us said, ‘well, something will happen.’
And I thought that was just the greatest. I love that, that’s a philosophy.”
Taylor swift echoes, “something will happen.”
Paul responds, “and it did. We sort of went up the bank, we thumbed a lift, we got the lorry driver to take us and mal, our roadie, sorted out the van and everything. So that was kind of our career. And I suppose that’s like how I ended up a musician and a songwriter, “something will happen.”
The welcoming prayer creates an opening—spiritual and psychological—for something to happen.
When something happens that creates negative emotion and thought, we get all up in our head and we make it worse and we create an illusory situation where usually we get stuck.
As we welcome the annoying, irritating, painful situation and we create a space for something to happen.
I find the model number of my computer, drive to office depot and buy ink cartridges. And I am not irritated for the rest of the day. Something happens.
The Beatles find a way back to London in a blizzard. Something happens.
The welcoming prayer creates an aware, alert, something will happen space so that we are not constantly battling reality, which has plenty of potentially negative experiences.
Friends, the pandemic is real. No amount of denial will change the situation.
There are no conspiracies. This is the world we live in.
We cannot minimize its effects. 3166 people died in one day from COVID-19 on Thursday.
We have to welcome COVID-19 19 and every day create spiritual and psychological room to stay alert and awake and in the moment.
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations and conditions.
I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and the healing action and grace within. –
Something will happen.
People Get Ready (Curtis Mayfield)