Finding the Spirit

December 22, 2019

There is a contrast between the unraveling of our lives and the unfolding of God’s covenant.  With everything that needs to be done, with all of the expectations of things needing to be completed, at times it feels like we might just be going through the motions.   I know parts of my Advent this year went just that way.  I knew I had to put the Christmas tree up.  It began on a particular day when I felt, now was the time and if not now, it might not get done.  So I went to the sub-basement and began to look for the containers of decorations.  Usually I feel upbeat about decorating for Christmas, but this year I was thinking about all the work it will require to take things down even before I put it up.  Then it occurred to me that I needed to simplify and maybe put less up, so that there was less to take down.  This began a spiral of not having the desire to really decorate at all.  But as I got the tree put together and fluffed out the branches, the unraveling of my anxiety took hold.  Why am I expending all this energy?  Does it really lift my spirits?  I began to doubt, but just went through the motions of getting ornaments out and getting them ready to place on the tree.  After a few went on, something changed.  I began to remember when some of the ornaments were bought and the moments when some were given to me as gifts.  I began to realize the stories they were telling me.  The source of this joy was each ornament telling a story of the many sources of light in my life.  With that my anxiety lifted and instead of looking at this task as a chore, I began to see the importance of remembering the story behind each ornament, and with the year it signified I remembered important events from that time.  This tree which decorates my bedroom is gorgeous and each day I experience the treasure it holds.  The source comes from so many years of love found in each ornament.

The unfolding of God’s covenant comes crashing in to change our perspective and our lives.  In today’s Gospel Joseph sees his path as needing to divorce Mary quietly in order to leave her with as little shame as possible.  He is going through the motions when the angel intercedes and tells Joseph of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant found with God.  He is told that Mary has found favor.  It is in the unfolding of the covenant, through the message of an angel and the promise of a Messiah, Joseph’s life changes direction.  He is filled with a new spirit and does exactly as the angel has commanded.

In these last days of Advent we are invited to allow the Spirit to fill the direction of our lives with the reassurance that what we do matters, how we do it tells of its importance, and how we find the Spirit is in the recognition of promises shared long ago.  I sit in awe of my tree this year.  I really was going to take a year off from putting it up and in doing so I would have missed the story it tells of a God who never forgets, who longs to share His light.  I see so many blessings in the tree and the source of light found in each of the ornaments.  What was a chore became the main focus; the direction changed by listening to the unfolding of the story of blessings.

In these days may the Holy Spirit lead us to the places where His love is prepared for and blessings are realized.

Reverend  John J. Ouper