Paying Attention

Paying Attention

December 1, 2013
Stina Pope

This is the first Sunday of Advent, the season of preparation before Christmas. Here’s an interesting thought: Christianity does not need Christmas. It needs Easter and Pentecost, but not Christmas. What happens if we look at Advent in the bigger picture of the church year, leading up to Easter, the pinnacle of our faith?

So I want to make a few comments on the readings, and then read you a poem. Look at this passage from Isaiah and from the Psalms, an incredibly beautiful concept of how life is in the kingdom of heaven. It goes on to talk about the lion laying down with the lamb. It is peace, when no one does violence to another. This is perfection, this is what we aspire to, this is what God wants. Mind you, this was written when things were not anywhere near this – and that is also important to remember. We hold this concept out in front of us so we know what direction we are taking. It gives us a way to ask the right questions. Sue is reading an important book right now called, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. The way we put the question together determines the way the answer can be made. What Isaiah offers is a glimpse of a different reality so that we can ask ourselves the question: does doing this lead us closer to this vision, or not? Sometimes we don’t know, but if we do not hold that vision out there, we surely will not have the direction that can be ours if we use it. What would life be like if we held up that vision as a touchstone and a guide for ourselves? Would anything change?

The second reading is from Romans, which is a treatise, Paul’s theology well thought out for the fledgling churches to turn to for advice. He takes Isaiah and the picture that is offered there as a given, but with a startling change of time. The time is now, he says, the kingdom of God is now. We are supposed to live in that kingdom now. The way we do that is to put on the armor of light, because we recognize that we are still living in the kingdom that does not correspond to that vision.

Matthew’s text was written quite a bit later, but it echoes the same idea. Live now as though you knew that any minute Jesus was going to walk in the door and say, “it’s time to go.” Be ready. Several things run across my head when I imagine this situation. One is that I am pretty clear that there will not be time to gather anything up – rather, I will have to be willing to simply walk out the door. This calls for a willingness to leave everything behind, a non-attachment to my things and my people. Is this right? If we look at other places in the gospels, we find Jesus suggesting exactly this, not being attached to things, and even to people. At the same time, Jesus was labeled a drunk and a glutton. He enjoyed life to the fullest – but he wasn’t attached to things being a certain way. That is a huge difference.

When I think about it that way, the questions change again: do we love our brothers and sisters, or do we hold them tightly and try to make them fit into certain molds; do we love ourselves, or do we hold ourselves in contempt; do we enjoy life because God gave it to us, or do we endure each day? Are we ready, right now, for Jesus to come through the door and say, “it’s time to go!” What would have to change in our lives for us to be ready? With whom would we need to make peace?

We have been trained to think about this time as getting ready for Christmas, as the time to get gifts. What if we gave each other the gift of peace? What if we gave things away instead of buying new, being clear with folks that we will be pleased if they like these things, and when they no longer suit, that it is a good thing to pass them along again. What if we reached out to those who are alienated, making a special effort to smile at the grumpy, to sit quietly with the grieving, not asking them to be happy for our sake, to sooth the frightened, and so on. In other words, what if we were alert, really conscious, this Advent? This passage has been read to suggest that we are not supposed to sleep! But what I think is that we are being called to a life of consciousness, paying attention to how and who we are in this world. Instead of going through the world in a kind of drunken stupor, we are called to be alert. It is very easy to slip into this stupor. When we do things over and over, we forget to be alert. We miss seeing the person who is sad inside, we walk by the person who is hungry for interaction or perhaps just some food, and it is not just the others we miss. When we are not conscious, we are not awake to ourselves either, eating junk food, not paying attention to our body’s cries for help, and that is not OK either.

Here we are at the beginning of Advent. Let’s pay attention!


A Poem for Advent 2013

Here I am!
Right where I am supposed to be.
Though it’s hard sometimes to believe that
I think mistakes have been made
I judge things as wrong
and complain loudly.
I admit it!
But let me be clear,
I am so grateful to be here
in this place, with these people
with this body, with this life
I love being alive!

Here I am!
exactly as you made me
and some adjustments I have added
sometimes I don’t rest enough
sometimes I treat my body badly.
Sometimes I dislike my body!
I admit it!
But Let me be clear
I am so grateful to be alive
I love that you made me
just like this,
this body,this heart, this brain.
I love being alive!

Here I am!
Exactly who you made me
riddled with insecurities and fears
overly obsessed with some things
totally lazy about other things
Oh yes, I am human and flawed
I admit it!
But let me be clear,
I am so grateful to be alive
I love my humanity, my flaws
I love laughing at my craziness
and striving to evolve, to stretch
to more peace, courage and honesty
I love being real, human and vulnerable
I love being me.

Here I am,
A spiritual soul as you’ve made me
Sometimes I feel so alone, disconnected
I feel empty and I lose faith

Do you really care about little old me?
Does my life matter, am I here on purpose?
I don’t always trust
I admit it!
But let me be clear
I am so grateful to be alive and
conscious of my spirit
I love feeling the wind
whip across my body
and know I am part of every tree
and blade of grass
I love the rush of love,
of adoration and joy
that rises up in me
when I see the awesome beauty
in the life and people around me.
I feel my pounding heart of love
and know that I am loved!

So today I remember that YES,
I am grateful!
because I DO LOVE being fully alive
my stumbling, yet perfect human self
my stumbling, yet loving heart
my stumbling, yet soaring spirit

And in my YES to gratitude,
I say YES anew to my life.
I say YES anew to my energy
I say YES, I remember that I matter!

I say yes to co-creating my life
consciously, with my choices!
I say yes to faith, to courage,
to the art of allowing
and to real inspired action!

I am already grateful for the
amazing things I am about to co-create next!

I say yes, thank you, and I remember
the awesome power of gratitude
the energy, the vibe,
the lightness of gratitude
And I let myself be filled with it.
Yes, I am grateful!
Yes, I am ready for more!
Yes, let’s GO!

(a note from Stina – I picked this up from a newsletter, I think! and now cannot find the author, my abject apologies)