Fourth Sunday of Advent

ReadingsMicah 5: 2-5a; Psalm 80: 1-7; Hebrews 10: 5-10; Luke 1: 39-45

Creating Space.  In soccer and in football, too, a player runs through space on the field, hoping one or two of the opposing defenders follow.  Then, into the space runs another attacking player, ready to receive a neatly kicked ball (in soccer) or a well-thrown pass (in football).  The first run creates the space for the second attacker to receive the ball.

At our backyard bay window, where I like to sit in my favorite barrel chair to read, or work on sermons, or just sit and watch the birds at our feeders and birdbath, we put our Christmas tree.  So, we need to create space by moving our toy box where Leigh has her African violets and moving aside my chair and lamp.  The tree goes up, and we also leave space for any gifts that Santa may bring.  We make space for Christmas. 

These two illustrations are about creating space, physical space.  To create spiritual space is more challenging, but it is actually more important for our health.  Both of my illustrations suggest that space is limited.  A football field is 100 yards by 160 feet, a soccer pitch is 120 yards by 75 yards.  Our living room is 12 feet by 40 feet. 

Many time-honored suggestions for creating spiritual space include eliminating T.V. watching, especially news and sports (not a bad idea for most of us).  Others include going for walks or carving out time for prayer and meditation in the midst of our daily chores. 

I think there is another avenue that needs exploring.  Rather than being limited by the size of the field or the 24 hours of a day, I think we can create more space in our lives in two ways. 

First, we can expand our friendships and our loves.  We can expand our friendships and even make some new ones.  We can walk and explore our neighborhoods; we can greet people we know, and those we don’t know.  Leigh and I are getting to know all the dogs in our neighborhood, and some additional neighbors, too.  This time of year it is so easy to ask about holiday plans. We also meet people we know as we do our Weis Market shopping.  Just this week we discovered behind masks, our daughter’s violin teacher and an A.Y.S.O. soccer referee.  We shared what is new with our children and grandchildren.  We also use our phones to stay in touch with our family.  To create space, we can expand our friendship circles and increase connections with those we love.

Second, we can create space by expanding our generosity.  There are the disaster victims in Kentucky; there are the struggling hospital systems; there is the D.H.&L. fire company that is about to order a new aerial truck for over one million dollars; there are the local school foundations that help with the unexpected costs of the last two years.  There are many organizations that have touched our lives over the years.  Generosity is a wonderful way of thanking them and assisting to support the values that formed us.  We have been raised by a village, so let’s ensure that a village will be there for future generations.

We can also expand our generosity through the gifts of our time.  Our libraries, our daycares, our food programs, our youth sports, our borough and township organizations are always looking for additional helping hands.

The negative forces of COVID continue to hang around, and will probably do so for some additional months like dark clouds.

Now let’s circle back to our proper collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.                                                           

May God find in us a mansion with many rooms prepared for God to come and live among us.  We need to clear more space; we need to expand the space through friendship and love, through sharing and generosity. 

In a few days, we will hear again the story of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, and seeking shelter to host the birth of the Christ child.  There was no room in the inn, nor in the homes of Joseph’s kinfolk.  Finally, they were shown a stable in a cave behind an inn.  Thereby the lantern light the creatures of God made room for the Holy Family.  They gave the Holy Family cleared space, the cow and the ox gave up their food trough, their manger.  The mice scampered to a less desirable part of the stable, and the dogs gave up their favorite spots.  Was it all neat and tidy and pure in that stable? Of course not, it was a stable. While the human order said no room for you all, not tonight; the animal world said, yes, join us in here, sheltered from the wind and the rain. 

May we have room in our lives, as untidy, and imperfect as they may be; may we have room in our hearts this Christmas for the Holy Family, for Mary, for Joseph, for the Christ child.  Clear some space!


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