Saturday, December 4, 2010

Racing Through Advent

Little children can identify the green light with ‘go’ and the red light with ‘stop’. “What does the yellow light mean?” I asked years ago.

“Hurry up and go!” our three year- old answered.

Does that not sound like us in December? We have a call each year to CAUTION……SLOW DOWN….with Advent….a time of waiting expectantly and preparing for the Gift that we remember at Christmas, and yet we have a way of making it, ‘hurry up and go.’ And since some seem to believe that yellow lights are made for running, it does not surprise me that we race through Advent as well.

December is a stressful month packed with exams for students, Christmas programs for children, cooking, feasting and social gatherings for some, pressures of family togetherness or lack of it, cold weather hardships and illness for many, and year-end financial stress. And we are being asked to slow down and wait during Advent? To contemplate? Many of us are racing headlong into Christmas with an empty tank - spiritually - pausing only for a brief pit stop of a splash and go devotional.

So here it is: today’s Word on the Way. The number one rule of racing teaches us...

1. Know where you going before you try to go fast.

My brother, a racing instructor and driver for almost 25 years, teaches this fundamental. We must ask:Where are we going so fast? Is our goal to arrive at the end of this year fiscally and physically drained, with yet another few pounds to add to the new year’s resolution list, joining the majority of Americans? Or is there another road less taken? How can focusing on Advent help us know where we want to go? Advent is a call to sharpen our focus and train our vision on something God - not the American economy – does. We make a choice.

The number two rule?

2. Your hands will follow your eyes: Look where you want to go.

This principle is true in racing, highway driving, and life: Look where you want to go, and your hands will follow your eyes.

Look up! Look through the turns. Look at the road ahead, not at the bumper of the car in front of you. Keep your eyes on the road you want to take, not on the car stalled on the side of the road. You don’t want to hit that car? Then don’t look at it. This amazing phenomenon accounts for the highway accidents where drivers literally run right into cars stopped on the side of the road! It takes tremendous discipline to keep our curious eyes from straying onto those things that beckon for our attention - on the highway and in life - but we learn to train our eyes onto those things that are for our ultimate good and safety. Our hands really do follow our eyes. That truth is a basis for temptation as well: we are attracted to that which appears delightful to the eyes, pleasing to the senses, and we want it. It's an old story. The next step is to see how to have it. So it really does matter where we look.

So, look where you want to go.

If our desire is for a more contemplative December this year… to anchor us while we experience stress in our lives….to free us from fear and anxiety… be set free from our sin….and to know a sense of peace and rest even in the midst of our culture’s chaos and busyness, then we must look at those places where we can find peace….joy….rest.

The way of wisdom teaches us to keep our eyes on the Lord God through a discipline of prayer to fill us for this day’s needs. Seek the path for today, trusting God to make our way clear. And we must keep our eyes on the road. This beloved Advent hymn helps me to focus:

“Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set your people free. From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee….By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone. By thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.” (Words by Charles Wesley, 1744; Music by Rowland H. Prichard, 1830)
Merciful God, you sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation. Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may celebrate aright the commemoration of the nativity, and may await with joy the coming in glory of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever more. Amen.
From the Book of Common Prayer

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