Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on December 09, 2017
The nights have been cold this week. We left our cat outside when the temperature went into the 20’s. The next morning, he was not happy. He pretended to roll around on the porch as if he just wanted his tummy rubbed, but in all honesty, I could tell by the way he was looking at me that he was trying to communicate much more. The look in his eyes said, “you fool, can you please put me in the laundry room near the dryer next time? Why don’t you freeze your ears off out here and tell me how you feel?” If I were him, I would react the same way.
The cold nights got me thinking about the season of Advent that leads into Christmas. The nights are getting longer and colder, the days shorter and the air crisper. We are on the edge of winter. The season of Advent is asking us to get ready for something important.
Winter is when much of life around us is going to sleep; however, this is when God decides to do something unexpected. Why is it that God never seems to do what we want, when we want and how we want?
With the unexpected nature of God at work during the dark chill of Advent we are invited into a deeper encounter with the imminence, convergence and nearness of God. These are important themes as we remember God’s actions in the past, and this remembering allows us to be open to God’s amazing activities in the present.
Imminence, convergence and nearness are not on most of our minds this time of year. Most of us are about creating an atmosphere of warmth, pleasure and downright coziness. Last night we baked persimmon bread from the persimmons we picked from our tree. I can promise you with God as my witness that our house was so cozy that it would have even brought a faint smile to even the grumpiest of persons. Had I instead offered up the idea of an atmosphere of imminence and convergence, I have every confidence I would have been asked to trade places with the cat. He gets warm and cozy inside and I can have all the shivering and freezing “convergence” my heart desires on the outsid.
That said, convergence and nearness with God is opening ourselves to the sudden, unexpected, and even intrusive nature of the divine. God does not always work gently, or quietly like wisteria creeping over the lattice of time. No, the light of God is capable of bursting through the darkness of the world! That Holy burst is not necessarily going to be warm and cozy, on the contrary, the pillars of our life will get shaken all the way to the foundation.
Sudden and intrusive upheavals are a challenging message to talk about this time of year. Everyone else is singing “Let it Snow” and “The Little Drummer Boy” and well… “sudden” and “intrusive” doesn’t sound like a very fun party guest.
How many of you have Advent wreathes or Advent calendars at home? One reason we light Advent candles each week is to proclaim the coming light of God into the world. That light of God doesn’t arrive on our terms. The sudden burst of light that pierces the darkness of the world is the peace of God. Not some abstract peace in the world that we don’t have any real connection or experience with, but true peace. The kind of peace that is measured in our hearts and minds. The kind of peace that won’t wake you up at 3AM when you worry about the future.
The kind of peace where your life is a witness, a testimony, a reflection of the light God.
Perhaps, and I realize I am on thin ice here, perhaps this year could be a little different if we sharpened our focus on the light of God in the wilderness of our life. What if we put a little less emphasis on drummer boys, singing chipmunks, and frantic shopping. Don’t get me wrong, I participate and enjoy each of these. If I don’t get to watch “Charlie Brown Christmas” and the “Grinch” each year I lose it! However, what if this year we allowed more of our heart, mind and body to be open to the renewal of God’s love?
Sometimes, the world can be so dark, we can’t see grace right before our very eyes, let alone peace. This gives all of us a big pause. If Christmas means living into the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love of Christ, what am I doing this year to make room for that Hope Peace, Joy and Love? How will I be different this year?
The imminence, convergence and nearness of God is saying yes to the journey toward something bigger than ourselves. Isn’t that what we all truly want? Have a joyful Advent, Christmas and Holiday season.
Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah
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