The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope
Gracious God, from whom every good gift comes, send your spirit into our lives and by the flame of your wisdom open the horizons of our minds, loosen our tongues to sing your praise in words, and to go beyond speech praising you in the silence deep within our hearts. Amen
Whether you choose to claim it or not, your very presence at this service marks you as countercultural revolutionaries. While you are participating in this traditional Advent lessons and carols service, the culture all around you is participating wildly in Black Friday morphing into Black Saturday morphing presumably into Black Sunday and fear not, there’s still time because I received in my e-mail notices that tomorrow will be Cyber Monday. Revolutionaries you are because you have chosen to participate in this service where we are invited to slowly savor our salvation story in Scripture and song—hearing the story beginning at Genesis and weaving this thread and tapestry through to the last lesson you just heard of the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary with quite an annunciation, the shocking and extraordinary news that God was prepared to take on human flesh and dwell among us. And Mary after asking just a few questions—I’m sure I would’ve had quite a few more- accedes to what Gabriel has pronounced and says, “Yes” and changed the course of human history.
How do we in the midst of a culture that is screaming at us to buy-buy-buy, spend-spend-spend and do so quickly, while supplies last, slow down, wait, watch, pray, and listen for that still small voice of God calling to us giving us our charge as Gabriel gave Mary hers? And she said yes. As you can see in the bulletin that you picked up this evening there are myriad ways in which this Cathedral is offering programs for pilgrimage, retreat, courses, lectures, and concerts all designed to give you the time and space to slow down, to enter more deeply into this holy season of Advent. We wait to welcome the Christ child once again into our hearts and souls and spirit and let our lives be changed as a consequence.
In his book Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning writes about his own journey in this regard. In studying Scripture he says that it’s one of the better ways that we come to know God and to understand God and to be in conversation with God. But he struggled with it and he didn’t experience the “relentless tenderness of God,” as he calls it, until he got very still and quiet and prayed with great intention that that tender and loving God would visit him and break open for him the Word of God through the living Word. Manning makes the point that we can’t directly experience God derivatively through exegetes, theologians, or spiritual writers. It has to be our experience, our life. And he says that “when the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited.”
It has to be your experience, your life, your annunciation and response. Ignatius of Loyola said that direct experience of God is grace indeed and basically there is no one to whom it is refused. Over the course of these next four weeks as we prepare for the coming of Christ, slow down. Block out the cacophony of the culture around you. Continue in your journey to be countercultural revolutionaries and listen with intention for that still small voice of God calling you for your call, your purpose, your transformed life living into the Christ child welcomed in your heart once again. And when Gabriel or some other heavenly emissary comes your way and says, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you,” how will you respond?