December 16, 2012

Luke 12:29-40

I wasn’t going to work on a sermon this week, seeing how the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world and all. But our calendar says we have a few remaining days on this ‘third rock from the sun’ so I decided I had better do something, next week is another matter.

This is the third Sunday in Advent. As the calendar falls this year, next Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Advent is but two days before Christmas. So we only have nine days until this child arrives. So if you are not worrying about Mayan prophecy, perhaps you are worrying about this one,

9 Get you up to a high mountain,
 O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
 O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
 lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
 ‘Here is your God!’

We know, because our Sunday school teacher told us, that this coming Messiah is going to start out like we all do. A baby. Babies may not invoke the same kind of anxiety as Almighty God, unless they are your baby. Now, this child is not ‘our child.’ None of us are Mary. None of us are Joseph. Still, we are not unlike parents who are anxiously awaiting the birth of the child.

This territory, let’s call it anticipation, is fraught with worry. I know there is a positive side to anticipation. We look forward to good things coming our way. There is an optimistic way to wait. And you do not need to search very far to find this kind of perspective. Just look at those sweet little cherub faces that are anticipating all of the generosity and trimmings that go along with the birth of our Savior. But what do children know?

They don’t know anything. They have no concept of all of the planning and preparation that goes into the meeting of these expectations. Not to mention the cleaning. Grandpa and grandma, meemaw and papaw are coming in from their house over the river and through the woods. We usually go there, but they are coming here. It isn’t that anyone comes with a white glove tucked in their pocket, pulling it out not so discretely to swipe the coffee table I forgot to dust. Because we are cooking, there is a certain orchestration that must occur, with precision, to make sure everything lands on the table at the precise strike of two, hot. And we know that Uncle George will arrive forty-five minutes late.

These children do not know what it means to try and find the best deal on some particular item; maybe they will like this other model, or perhaps they will settle for a similar item? I don’t know. What if they are disappointed? How about a cash card. That may work. Nothing speaks the holiday quite like cold hard cash. Let them get what they want, then I won’t have to worry about the fact they may not like the socks or scarf I have chosen for them.

These are, of course, first world problems. Most of us do not have to worry about the basic essentials of life. Most of us do not have to worry that in our holiday travels there will not be any room in the inn. But worry is still worry; it is still those emotions that drag you down, thinking as you are about the worst case scenario, perseverating on some image we have cooked up in our mind that expects something bad to happen. Do you know what I mean?

When I was a child, I had a favorite magazine. This was before I subscribed to the Christian Century and the Atlantic Monthly. I liked to read Mad Magazine. The central figure in this fine literary journal was a person by the name of Alfred E. Neuman. His motto was, “What, Me Worry?” His face, with jug ears, a mop of hair and one eye positioned lower than the other graced many covers of the magazine and his looks alone communicated that he worried about nothing except mischief. is the intellectually uncurious “What, me worry?” This was changed for one issue to “Yes, me worry!” after the Three Mile Island incident. Apparently there are some events in the world that can move the most carefree of us to neurosis.

This week in Connecticut has taught us that, if we needed a reminder.
If we insist upon a purely cognitive response to the events of life, most of us would be reduced to a shivering lump in the fetal position. But we aren’t. Most of us are able, somehow, to get up, get dressed and go out into this world so full of threats.

The Evangelist Luke quotes Jesus to say, “…do not keep worrying.”

Did you notice this phrase? It neither treats worry as something that does not exist, nor does it criticize those who worry. Jesus simply says, ‘knock it off.’ I am hesitant to offer such advice, because in the case of worry it is much harder to stop it than to start it. Still, that is what Jesus says, ‘do not keep worrying.’

I don’t know about you but rather than a simple admonition to stop it, it would be helpful to have some idea how. Fortunately there is a suggestion. Like all suggestions in the bible, you do not need to heed it. You can choose to go on your way, with your worry beads in your pocket, working them through your fingers over and over again. It is especially difficult to resolve this because the advice sounds so simple! What is it? Jesus offers an alternative thought. In a real sense he says, think about this, not that. What is it? Instead of thinking about all that can go wrong, what should I think about? Think about this: “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

I have another suggestion for you this week. Can you consider that God has given you the kingdom? The future will arrive as surprisingly as a thief in the night, but notice this: what is coming is not a thief in the night; it is a party in the morning, a party where we who aspire to be servants of the Lord will be served, treated as guests of honor. That isn’t so bad is it? The question is really what you want to think about.