Preparing for God in Time and History

December 3, 2017

What we do with our time creates history.  Our actions in the here and now create our history.  Advent is a time when we move into preparation mode.  Having survived Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we move on to checking details of the list to determine what still needs to be done.  If it is not on a list, it probably won’t get done.  The invitation of Advent is to “Be watchful, be alert”.  This is a different kind of preparation.  It is one that leads to awareness.  It is not about what we plan to do, rather it is about watching what enfolds while we are preparing.  This awareness may be seen as an attention to detail, making sure everything is in the right place and is correct with regards to our expectations, but such a perception is too simple.  Being watchful is the experience of seeing clearly what happens when things do not go as planned.  The Savior wasn’t recognized by some and still isn’t.   What happens in the meantime is essential to history, legacy and our relationship with God.  In the Gospel God chose the time and the place, not exactly like we would have it if we were in charge. So watching for the unexpected, watching for the detours has to be included as a part of our time and history of preparation.

This Thanksgiving I hosted my family and it was a joy. The table also embraced sorrow as it was the first Thanksgiving without a loved one for my brother’s mother-in-law. It was also a place of pain for my nephew who is going through divorce.  I thought I was prepared to make everything right for the meal. Everything had been purchased and in advance and was thawed. I had delegated out the rest of the dishes as to who was bringing what.  After the 9:30 AM liturgy I headed back home to season the large bird and the smaller turkey breast, which I had planned to cook in the big green egg, a ceramic grill I received as a gift years ago.  Suddenly, I experienced the unexpected when the egg would not open.  It was frozen closed from the frost.  I had never even thought to check it before the day arrived.  When I yanked on the handle, the whole grill lifted off the rollers.  It was frozen.  As an Eagle Scout, I was determined to find a way to open the grill.  I went inside the house and boiled two pots of water to throw at the egg. Still nothing.  My next attempt involved a knife, which I used to try and pry it open, but I couldn’t locate a gap where I could break the seal.  Then I changed knives and poured more boiling water on the grill. In our family, we require two turkeys on Thanksgiving. It is our tradition to cook the turkey breast on the grill, because everyone likes the smoky flavor produced by the egg, and I did not want to disappoint them.  A good deal of time had expired, but I needed to open the egg without breaking it so that our tradition could continue.  Finally, two screwdrivers did the trick. I wedged them into a spot separating the upper and lower seal and cracked the seal. When the egg opened, there was yet another unexpected discovery. All of the wood charcoal it in was also frozen.  I moved quickly to replace it and proceeded to start the fire with very little time to spare.  As I reflect on the day, I realize I learned a lot in the face of these unexpected delays. I learned the importance of being resourceful and trying a combination of ways to solve the problem as well as the value of refraining from panic, which allowed me to stay open to consider new options and new ways to accomplish what was necessary.

Time and history clash together in our lived experience.  What we do in time creates our history.  God comes to us to teach, heal and be present in ways unimaginable.  As we prepare to allow the unimaginable to lead, may we also allow the unexpected detour to light the way.Be watchful and alert, but not just in the obvious places.

Reverend John J. Ouper