Kids are terribly predictable. One thing that you can count on is kids can never see a messy room. You can send them into a room stacked high with clothes, shoes, toys, last week’s dinner and an assortment of food wrappers and almost always get the response of, “It looks okay to me.” To them it’s clean or at least, clean enough. I think it has something to do with an evolutionary visual impairment, one which lasts until the child is well into adulthood or at least until they have their own place. This visual impairment shields the child emotionally. It protects them by denying the problem’s recognition, and thereby protecting the child from the emotional trauma of work.
When confronted directly with such items as stacks of laundry or unmade beds, the child will fall into a state of depression and annoyance. This is due largely to the dawning realization that they may actually be responsible not only for their actions but for the environment around them. Such responses may last for hours or days or until the child wants something or is otherwise mentally distracted. Do not be fooled however, just because the child is confronted directly does not mean they will remember the next time. This is a cyclical behavior and as soon as possible, by intention or simple inattention, the room in question will be returned to the previous state of disarray and the process begins again.
I feel like sometimes we come into Advent like children. Our personal spaces, our interior rooms if you will, are untidy. Our world around us feels a bit messed up. For some of us, our personal lives feel a bit messed up. We are in need of cleaning up and doing it well before Spring. In the Old Testament reading this morning we have Isaiah wandering through our hearts and minds. Like a father wandering through a teenager’s room for the umpteenth time, he shouts,
You’re unclean, like a bunch of nasty laundry…your messy, unkempt minds and hearts leave you distracted and unfocused, unable to clean up. You don’t ask for help getting things cleaned so you end up staying here in this mess.
There is an unspoken question here. What if company arrived today? What if the one you are waiting for shows up and sees all of this mess?
You see that is one of the things about Advent; we are not simply looking back. Advent is the opportunity to pay attention to what is presently and what might be. In Isaiah, the God’s people live in exile. Their nation was messed up, their lives had been wrecked. They took for granted the world they lived in and all its comforts and now it was gone. Not only that, but their faith was kind of messed up, too. They had to look back to see how things got so messy, while looking at the mess they were in and thinking about how to clean it up.
The thing is we are looking back at things which happened long ago and trying to keep them there, long ago. For us, the issue is no longer what if company arrived but how did we things get so messed up knowing our company was here? We are children of the Spirit, living in the Age of the Spirit, the time of Pentecost. We are not just individual rooms, but we are part of a great building, the Temple of Christ as Paul tells the Corinthians. The Holy Spirit flows in and through the Temple of Christ, looking to heal what is broken and strengthen where the building is weak. Some parts of the building need a good cleaning and the Holy Spirit is constantly looking to do just that.
Sometimes, we treat ourselves and our lives, as though they are not part of the greater Temple, but our own personal buildings, locked away, or even separate from the Temple. We look at the mess and think like children, “It looks okay to me. It’s not great but it’s clean enough.” We get comfortable with the mess, thinking that it’s our mess and it’s okay to leave it this way. Yet, Advent comes to remind us, the year is dying away. The time to set things right and start again is coming. As we look to welcome the child of promise, we have to ask ourselves, “Are we ready for company? Is the room, our part of the Temple of God in the Spirit, really clean?”
Jesus makes an even finer point ending Mark’s passage with, “What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!” Be awake! Be aware! Know the time is coming. Know you have to get ready. Know something great awaits us born out of what was, seen in what is, and looking forward to what will be. And what is all this which was, is, and will be? Life. New life. Abundant life. The promise Jesus offers is the promise of God through Isaiah. The promise of God is coming and bringing new, abundant life. It is the new way of life in Jesus birth. It is the new life of the Spirit offered to us, being a part of the living Temple of God. It is the new life found which will be in the coming Kingdom of God.
Our responsibility, our job, is being ready to become vessels for new life, clean vessels where life can flourish and not stagnate. That is the promise, word within the word. God has brought, is bringing, and will continue to bring life. What will we do to be ready? Do we need to dust off our devotional lives, our daily connection to God both as individuals and as small groups? Do we need to vacuum up and toss out bad habits that lie between us and God? Do we need to move some things around that get in the way of our recognizing the need to be part of the greater body? Yes. Yes, yes, and yes. All of this and more. Anything not cleaned in our part of the Temple is fair game for the cleanup. But Daddy isn’t cleaning your room for you and he won’t force you to clean it. You have to choose to do it yourself.
The question is, will you? For yourself and for the greater body of believers, will you?
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