First week of Advent – what comes to your mind? Probably one of three “Y’s”: Maybe it’s like Yikes! Only four weeks until Christmas! Maybe it’s like, Yeehah, only four weeks until Christmas! Maybe it’s “Yawn”, Yeah Whatever – advent is just another ‘penitential season’ – another time I’m supposed to take a personal inventory and admit I’m a sinner and make some changes in my life”….yadda, yadda, yadda.
But the Church defines Advent as a time of “Devout and joyful preparation for the Lord’s coming”.
That definition doesn’t help, does it… “devout and joyful” – that means I’m supposed to sit with my hands folded and ACT like I’m joyful about it. Paint on a plastic smile…
Advent actually means ‘coming’ – like the “coming of the Lord” – or another way to say it might be ‘appearing’ or ‘showing up’. I like that last one – Advent is about the ‘showing up’ of Jesus.
Keep that in mind as you listen today. What does Advent mean to you personally?
Where does Jesus “show up” you’re your life?
Researchers tried to figure out the best way to plant a tree. They planted a bunch of them all in a greenhouse so they could say that all the trees had the same soil, water, and sunlight – but a third of them they staked up to support them. A third they left un-staked. The other third were also un-staked, but every day the researchers would manually wave the trees back and forth simulating a strong wind.
At the end of the research the trees that were staked were the tallest – but they also were very slender – so they were very weak. The un-staked trees were not as tall, but had stronger trunks. And the trees that had simulated wind were by far the shortest trees – but they also had the thickest trunks – making them much stronger.
Obviously, trees need wind to make them stronger. If every day was a perfect 75 degrees with blue skies and no wind, trees would all grow spindly and would break easily. Stormy winds play a role in making trees strong.
For us humans, maybe we don’t need wind – but we still need something to move us around – to bend our will, you might say. The winds in our lives are distractions and interruptions. Interruptions are a normal part of life – and I’d say, probably not our favorite part of life.
On the other hand, interruptions are what make life exciting. They interrupt our everyday ho-hum routine – they wake us up – they challenge us to redirect our energies.
Wait, Deacon Mike – you’re saying Interruptions are good? Like when I’m in the middle of something important and my wife asks me to get a jar of tomatoes from the basement – that’s good? When I’m trying to take a nap after a long day of work and my kids keep nagging me to play with them?
Yes – think about it. You can either stomp your feet as you go downstairs to get the tomatoes – or you can joyfully jump to it and take this as an opportunity to show them that they are high on your priority list. You’re gonna do it anyway… why not do it joyfully? You can tell your kids to go away, or you can create memories for them of how you always took time to play with them even when you didn’t want to.
I’m serious- think about the greatest blessings in your life – were they all part of your plan? I remember going to a dinner for young adults and my plan was to get to know a young lady I’d seen a month before – but then a beautiful girl from Dubois County walked in. She interrupted my plans – and I married her – and because of that interruption of MY plans, I now I live in this awesome community. God’s plan was better.
I know a young lady who recently lost her job – that obviously wasn’t part of her life plan. Immediately, other work started rolling in. Now she’s praying about how God is wanting her to serve and where He wants her to go….trusting that God’s plan is better.
Even in our everyday lives – most of our day is unmemorable – we don’t remember driving to work – we don’t remember what we had for breakfast – we don’t remember what we accomplished all day because it’s usually just like every other day. What we DO remember are the interruptions and distractions… the lady at the cash register who was so friendly… the co-worker who came in asking for prayers for their sick father-in-law…. The emergency at work where we were able to help save the day because we knew how. Interruptions are the flavor of life.
Or for an extreme example – think about where you were the day the towers fell. Where were you when you learned that your parent or grandparent died? These events are extremely traumatic; massive interruptions to our lives. They wake us up – so awake that we’ll forever remember where we were, what we were doing. In cases like 9/11, it brought people back to church at least for a while – until they fell back asleep.
And THAT is what Jesus is talking about – don’t let yourself fall asleep – don’t just go through the motions of life. Don’t just let every moment of every day fit the plan exactly like YOU planned it. That would be boring – and your will ain’t as good as God’s will.
Every day, watch for when God is trying to interrupt your life. Look for the moments when Jesus is ‘showing up’. He’s there all the time, but often we’ve got the cruise control set on our life and we’re just in a zone – oblivious. Wake UP – notice where Jesus is trying to interrupt you.
In fact, INVITE God to interrupt you. Seriously – set an alarm on your phone or watch to beep at noon and stop for a quick prayer like the angelus. Take a minute to look at where God is present RIGHT NOW. When we EXPECT God to interrupt us, we’re more likely to catch Him in action.
2000 years ago God interrupted all of creation when he told a young jewish girl that she would bear a child – Emmanuel – God with us. That interruption changed the world and continues to change every one of our lives – that is – if we’re awake enough to notice.
Ask Jesus to interrupt you – ask Jesus to Advent – to show up - in your life every day. Take the stakes off of your tree, and let the Holy Spirit blow you around a bit.