Rector's Ramblings December 20, 2017
As I get older, my body puts up with me less and less. When I was younger, I could push the limits in terms of workload, sleep, eating whatever I wanted. But now, I experience moments where my body makes decisions for me. Last week, staying up late, stress, lack of exercise, and long hours caught up with me. In the same day that I woke up with my back out, I also got the crud that’s going around. I don’t get sick much anymore, thanks to having older children and a healthier lifestyle, but I still get one good one a year. This year, my body simply told me to knock it off, slow down, and take it easy. Actually, my body probably told me that in a warning that I missed, and so it forced the issue. The only good thing is that it happened last week and not this week!
This was also the week I had an annual checkup and learned that I probably need to add a medication to my routine, to make up for genetic shortcomings that I can’t control. Nonetheless, the alternative isn’t great for the long term, so off the pharmacy it is. That’s not all bad either. I’m grateful for pharmacological science and all it offers the world. There really are some miracle drugs these days with new improvements on a regular basis. We can’t eliminate the need to eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and exercise, but there are ways to help the overall outcome in our favor.
I’ve written before (a long time ago) about how we often miss symptoms that indicate there is a problem. We ignore little subtleties that could give us a warning about a larger problem coming down the road. It’s easy to do. Missing such warnings can lead us to injury, illness, or any number of undesirable outcomes. It’s also similar to the reality that we can mistake thirst for hunger, and walk around overfed but slightly dehydrated. We miss and we misinterpret. Eventually, however, things and issues that want to be known will make themselves known. The worst thing is to deliberately ignore them once we become aware of them.
This is true outside of our bodies as well. There are indications, from time to time, that there are larger issues on the horizon that we might prepare for if we would just do better at acknowledging the warning signs, or at least work at not misinterpreting them. It’s true of land, like when a stand of trees becomes ill or a waterway experiences changes. It could be the recognition of wealth inequality; the growing spread between the richest and the poorest is an indication of something that likely requires some attention. History has warnings for us about what can happen when this cycle really gets going. Maybe it’s the traffic or the sewer capacity issues that might be suggesting a need to rethink development. It could also be that the increased frequency of empty shelves at food pantries means we should be paying attention to our neighbors and the local dynamics of poverty.
The world and its history are full of missing the subtle signals that can alert us to pay attention and take action. And that is a part of the story of this season. One reason for the stillness and quiet of Advent is to listen and reflect on what is going on in the world and what God is doing. Similarly, Jesus came into the world with a whisper, and was only known to those who were really paying attention. If Jesus came today, and was born into a family in downtown Brunswick, one with food security issues that moved from place to place, would we even know it? Would we overlook it all? Perhaps.
In the remaining days of the season, we can listen for the messages coming to us quietly from all sides. Some of them we have known are there, others may be new. There may be things that require change on our part, or some medicinal response. But more importantly, I think we’ll find God in the world around us. I think we’ll begin to see points of light in dark places and understand the Song of Mary, as she celebrated God’s quiet work in her womb. I pray for a fruitful conclusion to this season for all of us, and a joyous Christmas celebration. The story doesn’t end with Jesus, it begins.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.