Sermon 12-16-2014; “Patience”
Epistle #183 George Fox; 1659; http://www.hallvworthington.com/Letters/gfsection8.html
Pastor Ruthie Tippin, Indianapolis First Friends Meeting
It’s very hard to be patient, any time of year, but especially so at Christmas! As the gifts begin to gather under the Christmas tree, the waiting becomes excruciating. Did Santa get my letter? Will Santa remember how to find my house? Did Dad remember to download my Christmas list, and send it to Grandma? Counting down the days is not easy… and as of today, we have only nine left!
When I was a little girl, one thing that helped me pace myself - that helped me maintain a sense of patient waiting - was an Advent calendar. My mother would always have one ready by December 1st, and Marty, Carol Jean, Curtis, and I would take turns opening up a little paper window each day from the 1st to the 24th. What surprise would be hidden? What did we have to look forward to? We would open ourselves up to the promise of what was to come.
As we discovered two weeks ago, the anticipation of Christmas brings the gift of presence… lots and lots of presence. God’s presence is always near, and just as my family opened up the windows of that advent calendar, we opened up ourselves to the surprise of God’s presence waiting for us each day until finally, on Christmas Eve, the Lord Jesus came… the Lord of Life and Light.
And when Jesus was born, our greatest wish came true – not just for the Hadley kids, but for all children everywhere, when God became a child just like us. God incarnate - the word made flesh - Emmanuel – God with us. And now, at our convincement, that child is born in our hearts … Emmanuel – God in us. And God with us - in us - gives us… hope.
In our reading today we heard:
10 [Christ] was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Who knew Jesus? Those who had made space for the possibility of his arrival. Those who lived in anticipation – in the gift of presence. Those who chose to welcome uncertainty, and who were willing to wait in that ambiguous place. Those walking in darkness, who still longed and hoped for light. So often, what helps me to be patient is not what is probable, but what is possible. I wonder if that isn’t what sustained the people of Israel for all those many years.
Patience is the work of staying open… of creating open space in our lives. Even if it’s a very tiny space at the start, that opening is a beginning. The beginning of the possible. As we open each window in an advent calendar, a surprise awaits – a small gift that brings a smile. A bit of joy. A bit of light, that grows as each day turns to the next. As we tend to the task of opening ourselves to the gifts of God each day, regardless of our circumstances, we are led to hope, to presence, and to the Light of God.
Do you remember one of the names early Friends were given, even in the midst of struggle and persecution? “Children of the Light.” They remained open to the Light of God’s spirit, always acknowledging God in the midst of their darkness.
How do we wait? How can we remain patient, waiting for God to come? Waiting for God to be birthed in the places of need in our lives? In our yearnings? How do we wait? How can we wait when we don’t know what to expect? We live in a very uncertain world. We cannot predict what will happen today, tomorrow or the next day. In an uncertain world, we do not know what is coming… when - or if - things will come.
We must not wait alone. Just as God is incarnated in each of us, the incarnation of community – others who wait with us – makes the waiting possible. I did not open the advent calendar alone… my family opened it with me. We laughed, were surprised, and even argued over the chance to take turns revealing what God had waiting for us behind those windows! If we are loved and supported it’s much easier to temper the anxiety that comes in waiting. We can move more patiently toward the unknown future. By being present, and allowing others to be present with us, we share the warmth, energy, capacity, and strength of God’s light together as we wait. The gift of hope. The sense of presence. The embodiment of love. The certainty of light.
There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress…
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.
3 You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy…
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
We wait – sometimes impatiently, just like those people of sacred scripture did so long ago. But if we wait, opening ourselves to all that God has for us in our waiting, with others who will wait with us, the promise is Light in an otherwise dark place. ‘The true light that gives light to every one has come into the world.’ We walk as children of the Light.
Dwell in patience, and in the power, life, and wisdom of God,
and in peace, and love, and unity one with another.
And be subject in the power, and life, and wisdom of God to God and to one another;
that in it you may be as a pleasant field to the Lord God,
and as the lilies, and the flowers, and the buds,
feeling the pleasant showers and the streams of life from the living God
flowing upon you and coming into you,
whereby the presence and blessing of the Lord God Almighty among you may be felt.
And in that the Lord God Almighty preserve and keep you,
that to him you may be a good savor.
And live in peace. George Fox, 1659