Monday, December 1, 2008

Ready for Advent

Monday Meander 12-01-08 Does any body else find it easiest to pay attention to the first two of John Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules?” Do no harm, and do good are notions we can grapple with, so something about. The third one, “Stay in love with God,” seems trickier. Why do we tend to set this one aside until we’re “up to it?” Living in a divorce inclined culture certainly doesn’t prepare us for the work that love across a lifetime takes. Are we afraid God is the kind of lover who will compete with other things we love? Or are we afraid of getting our hearts broken? . Perhaps we’re laboring under the illusion that we have to be “just right” for our first date. Some stories just make you stop and take notice, even in the business of trying to wait for and get ready for Christmas at the same time. This week I’d like to share one that got me square in the midst of my Advent. Psychologist Daniel Gottlieb writes: …when Debbie was six years old, I had just come home from the hospital and was unsure of myself personally as well as professionally. It was evening and the first patient I would see after my accident was about to arrive. As I was looking in my wheelchair outside Debbie’s room, looking in the mirror (the only one in the house at wheelchair height) I started to comb my hair. (That was back when I had hair!) It was Debbie’s bedtime. She was supposed to be sleeping. Instead, she came out of her room and stood beside me, watching. Finally, very seriously, she said, “Daddy, why do you always worry about how you look before your patients come?” “I don’t know.” She reflected a moment. “It seems like you always have to look perfect.” “I don’t know. I never thought about it.” I was still trying to get my hair combed and beginning to feel uncomfortable with her probing questions. “They’re only people, you know.” Now I replied with a little more discomfort and animation. “I just don’t know, Debbie. I never really thought about it.” “Well, think about it,” she said, “and we’ll talk about it in the morning.” With that, she went into her room and I went off to see my patient. Sure enough, I was up all night thinking about it. Once again, she had seen right through me! -Daniel Gottlieb, Letter to Sam: A Grandfather’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and the Gifts of Life. I wonder how aware we really are of the energy that goes into creating the perfect appearance, the perfect Christmas, the perfect persona, the perfect life. Oh sure, we nod to the way we inevitably fall short of the mark, “I’m just doing the best I can.” But we still tend to set the bar pretty high. High expectations are not a bad thing. Striving for excellence hones talents and brings out new gifts. But the habits we get into trying to present ourselves at our best can get in the way of reality. None of us can do it alone. We need the innocent observation of a child, the honest feedback of a trusted friend, the insight of a role model. Advent reminds us that God wants to be all of those for us. While we’re busy straightening our hair in the mirror, God is waiting for us to turn around and say, I need you.” As naturally as a mittoned four year old who needs help zipping up his jacket. As awkwardly as an old friend calling after an absence to say, let’s get together. As eagerly as a student ready to learn. God is waiting to take us as we are. But we have to recognize how we are. Why is it so much easier to recognize the flaws “out there,” than “in here.” The economy’s a mess, a problem much bigger than any one of us. And yet, might each of us have had some role in the tangling, either by what we do or by what we didn’t? We’re all tired of the divisive rhetoric of political campaigns, of seeing and hearing more than we ever wanted to about minor celebrities, of commercial promises to make our lives perfect if we’ll only buy…..but don’t we feed the frenzy with what we do and try to wish it away with what we don’t? No wonder we’re in such a rush to get to Christmas! Here’s the thing….. what do we really need Christmas, the birth of Christ for. Is it for the sheer distraction from the rest of what’s going on? Is it as an excuse to gather family? Is the coming of Christ a lovely way to mark the changing of fall into winter, the natural tide of life? What is that gnarly wild guy, John the Baptist, doing showing up in the scripture this week as we light our candles and sing our almost Christmas songs? Repent, Repent, (turn around, turn around)! John’s Advent message is that we don’t need to be afraid to let God see us as we really are, what we should fear is the impulse to hold God off until we’re perfect (or perfectly ready). It’s urgent. We need to allow ourselves to be eager for the kind of love that will take us as we are. That love is the only thing that can truly perfect us, in the image of the God who speaks love into the world. This advent, how are you staying in love with God? It’s not a matter of “why wait.” It’s recognition that we can’t wait to be perfect before inviting the Christ into our life. Come, Lord, as honestly as a child, come make yourself a home in our hearts this day. In Christ’s Joy, Pastor Karen Staying in Touch *It’s Fair Week!!! The fun and fellowship begins on Thursday night. Hands are needed to decorate wreathes under excellent guidance (its never too soon or too late to learn). Friday evening is an “all call” for set up with a pizza break…come help make the magic happen. On Saturday, help is always appreciated especially around clean-up time, 1:00PM. *Among the new Fair Weekend offerings is a nativity display. Do you have a favorite manger scene you wouldn’t mind sharing? Bring it by no later than Friday at 7PM to be placed in the sanctuary. *A little further into Advent, we’ll host the Kents Hill School Vespers on Sunday evening, December 14. Claire Piddock is organizing hosts from the congregation to greet, take coats, and serve goodies afterward. Students from Kents Hill handle all other set-up and take down. Please let Claire know you can help by calling 685-9347. *The new phone book is here, the new phone book is here! Be sure to get an updated church directory (yellow) from the greeters table. Thank you, Carol!!! Keep in Prayer …All who are struggling with the economy, both to survive it and to revive it. ….The Mills family and Alleigh’s friends as the trial for her accused killer begins. ….Communities efforts to make Ricky Gibson’s wish come true and to express love for him and his family. So you have a prayer request to share via the prayer tree? Contact Nancy Perkins ( or Marie Rodriguez (

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