Our senior pastor has been on sabbatical for two months. He's returned for Advent and Christmas, and then will depart again for another two months. It's a model created of necessity, but one that has some real advantages. We get to peer into his thinking, and we have him for this very fresh, alive month--none of that, "I can't believe I'm back here already," energy. Instead we have, "I can't believe I get to head off once again in a month!" I suppose it's as though I went to work on Monday, and by Monday evening was back off for the rest of the week.
His sermon today was entitled, "Pay attention," and was about the seemingly-apocalyptic Matthew passage, the chapter and verse alluding me at the moment. The sermon was an urging to keep our eyes tuned to what is immediately before us--to be living so fully in this moment that we do not miss God's whisper of an arrival. It was a far cry from the "You've Been Left Behind" video series we used to watch as comedy amongst liberal-leaning friends at my Christian college. The message was in essence this--it is not so much that we will literally be left in the field as another is whisked away beside us, but rather than we will simply miss the opportunity to see what is truly there to see. We stand side by side with someone looking through a different lens, and they see, live and experience--and we miss the forest for the trees....or more appropriately given his message, we miss the trees for the forest.
This message was on my mind as we raked sodden piles of leaves in anticipation of tonight's snow. The sky was gray, spitting sleet periodically, and the still air felt anticipatory--there's something about to happen. I set the rake down for a moment, settled onto the edge of our back porch, and looked to the spindly, black branches of the trees reaching toward the sky. I was waiting--trying to pay attention. But while my eyes were pinned on the sky, it was beneath me that I could feel the hum of the universe. The energy of our collective existence was suddenly so palpable, I envisioned those giant trees crashing to the ground as the hum continued steadily on. As almost always happens when I am still, I was not only aware of the vibrations of energy below me and all around me, I was aware that I was in a dance with these vibrations--I was a part of the vibration myself.
With Tom's suggestion before me, I aim to pay attention this Advent. I am to wake early, brew a pot of tea, read wise words from people who stir me, and know that God is forever entering...forever arriving...forever wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. I will celebrate not only being witness to the energy of God's presence and arrival; I will celebrate being part of it. Amen.