Monday, December 3, 2007

Homily, 1st Sunday of Advent

[Though this is technically more of a sermon as it is topical on Advent instead of properly scriptural, if you'll pardon me.]

December of 1998, I am studying chemistry at the state school in Minnesota. It is my second year in college and I am also an R.A., a Resident Assistant in charge of a house of 30 some men. As I study for my Organic Chemistry final, laboring over reaction mechanisms and carbon chains, I hear an unusual sound, a barking dog.

In any college dorm, a barking dog would be cause for alarm on many levels, I had a special concern: Chris, my blind resident and his seeing eye dog, Nimitz. Nimitz is a great big golden lab, almost 3' tall at his shoulder with a broad chest. Service dogs are trained to be seen and not heard, so his barking was unusual and troubling. I grab my master key for all the rooms and head down to Chris' room.

"Chris this is Andy, your R.A., is everything all right?"

Nimitz barks.

"Chris this is Andy, your R.A., is everything all right?"

Nimitz barks.

"Chris this is Andy, your R.A., I'm going to unlock your door and come inside." I open wide the door, Nimitz is there and nothing more.

This isn't unusual, Chris often goes out with friends in the evenings and will leave Nimitz to rest after a long day. Chris' friends will guide him to Bible study or a movie and give Nimitz the evening off. But Nimitz doesn't bark, what is Nimitz's problem? His water dish and food bowl are empty, so I throw in some kibble and water, pat his large head, and walk out.

No sooner am I back in my room when I hear Nimitz: "Bark, bark...bark.... ... ...bark."

"Chris this is Andy, your R.A., I'm opening your door." "Nimitz why are you barking, whats the matter?" I often talk to inanimate objects, it is quite relaxing, really. I think maybe he needs to go outside, I don't need a mess on my dorm, so I take him outside. He avails himself of the opportunity and I am quite satisfied as I bring him inside.

No sooner am I opening my own door again when I hear Nimitz: "Bark...bark, bark, bark."

"Chris, this is Andy, your R.A., I'm opening your door." "What in the world do you want, Nimitz?" The dog says nothing. "Do you want to play?" I open the door and let him into the hallway. We start playing fetch, thinking that he's lonely and that he'll then let me return to my chemistry.

I'm still a nerd, still a scientist, trained in the art of observation. As we play fetch, Nimitz is making four stops in two spots. I throw the ball, he stops and looks into a stairwell, he runs, stops at a second stairwell and looks in there, he retrieves the ball, looks into the second stairwell again, runs back to me, and checks the first stairwell again before dropping the ball.

As I throw and observe, I'm thinking. What is Nimitz doing? Then it hits me: he's looking for his master, Nimitz is looking for Chris. The idea forms that Nimitz isn't going to be happy with food, drink, relief, or play, Nimitz will only be happy with his master, Chris.

So what in the world is Advent, and why should we care? Advent is that time for we Christians to to remember that only Jesus Christ will fully satisfy us. Like Nimitz, no food, no drink, no fun will satisfy like our Master.

So what is Advent? Advent is our time to look at our lives and ask, "Where do we place our hope, our expectations? Where do we look for our fulfillment, our satisfaction?" Sports? Toys? Gadgets? Fun? Jobs? Prestige? Money? Friends? Relationships? Where? All of these things, good though they are, will all fall short. We find dissatisfaction in what should be satisfying us. We find that our hope was really only a way to cope.

We are only coping with the sources of dissatisfaction. We treat the symptom and not the disease, we cover up the pain and don't look for the cure. There's a medical term for that sort of care, treating the pain and not the source: they call it palliative care, hospice care. Hospice care is for when we've given up on the problem. I'm not ready to give up.

That is why our Church looks different from the world around us. We have no manger scene, no Christmas tree, no lights, just a simple Advent wreath and the Cross of Jesus Christ. These 23 days before Christmas, in the midst of your shopping and baking and eating, I invite you to do something with me. Leave yourself a little hungry, a little cold, a little dissatisfied, on purpose. Deliberately remind yourself that your full satisfaction, happiness, and joy will not come from the good things of this world. When you feel that hunger, that cold, that dissatisfaction, pray that Jesus will transform your heart to look only to Him as your hope.

This Advent, direct your hearts to the ultimate hope: love. Unconditional, unending, undying, unwavering love found in Jesus Christ. Don't just cope. Find hope in Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Adoro te Devote said...

Thank you for this post. Very well said.