December 12, 2014
"Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day—but we'll hardly notice. We'll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness." - 2 Peter 3:11-13 (The Message)
Advent and Christmas are cues for ministers to panic about what they will preach. "How can I possibly make the story new?" and then spend hours writing terrible modern parables about a misfit reindeer who encounters the Baby Jesus and is changed forever.
Most of the children I know, and a good number of the grownups, don't want a new Christmas story. They like the old one, told with gusto. There is something about repetition that works on us in holy ways. Martin Luther is said to have preached Love One Another for weeks in a row, until his people actually began to do it.
I met a man recently, who had spent 30 years homeless or incarcerated. But now he had gotten sober, found permanent housing, was making amends to his children and spending a lot of time with his grandchildren. And he came back to church. He made these serious changes after his probation officer said to him "Are you done yet?"
What made the difference? I asked him. Surely, someone said that very thing to you before. Why now? He didn't know. He only knew: it was time to listen. This time, the stars were aligned. Or perhaps only one star, the one in the East, was in a position for him to see, and follow.
If you've given the same advice, over and over, to someone you care about, and it hasn't been taken yet—to take up flossing, ditch smoking, pick up the phone, forgive and forget—don't give up yet.
If you've heard the same advice, over and over, and berated yourself that you're just not strong enough to change—well, maybe you just haven't heard the whole story about yourself yet. Listen again.
And most of all, when you hear a good story about God, and you know it's true, tell it over and over. I want to hear it, told with gusto.
Mother of Heaven, make us good storytellers, discerning advice-givers, and brave advice-takers. And thank you for the constellations, the old heavens around this sweet old earth, that come around again and again, and help us get our bearings. Amen.
About the Author
Molly Baskette is senior minister of First Church Somerville UCC in Somerville, MA, and the author of the forthcoming book Real Good Church: How Our Church Came Back from the Dead and Yours Can Too.
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