Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
Thank you to Chaplain Bonner-Stewart for asking me to give the word of the day during the season of Advent. As the daughter of an Episcopal minister, it brings me great joy to speak to you from the pulpit. I want to start with the legend of La Befana. She is the Italian Christmas witch. She is like our Santa Claus. I had never heard of her until I married Papa Joe Catania. As you know he is of Italian descent. Here's her story.
La Befana was at home one day, cooking and cleaning when she heard a knock at the door and when she opened it there stood three kings. Behind them was a large group of villagers who had joined the wise men along their journey to find the Christ child and worship him. The kings invited her as well to follow the star and seek the Christ with them so that they can worship him and give him gifts, but she declined because she had too much cooking and housework to do. And she shut the door.
The next day, she realized her mistake and frantically ran after the Magi with gifts for the child, still clutching her broom. But it was too late – the Magi were long gone.
Ever since, she has flown on her broom every twelfth night searching for the Christ child and leaving presents for all the children in Italy.
That phrase, "but it was too late," is what convicts me most about her story. Am I too busy with decorating the tree and cooking, and buying and wrapping gifts, and going to parties that I miss the Christ child? Like Mary in the Gospel reading today, La Befana wasn't doing anything wrong. She just got so wrapped up in the busyness that she missed what is important. How do we, during this Advent season, make Jesus the focus of our lives? How do we seek him and worship him? I suggest we do three things: feed on the Word, pray, and be servants to his people.
When I taught at Leesville Road High School, I had a terrific student named Brice. He was famous for his late-night text. At midnight he would send out mass texts to his friends with Bible passages. The students would tease him, both they loved receiving those words of comfort or reassurance. I wish we had a way to post everyone's favorite Bible passages to share with the community. I know some of the ones I would add: For peace: Psalm 16:10 – "Be still and know that I am God." For conviction: Luke 6:45 – "For out of the abundance of the heart – the mouth speaks." For His promises: Psalm 37:4 – "Delight in the Lord and He shall grant the desires of your heart." I could go on and on. There is not one of us who doesn't go through seasons of doubt, fear, pain, and feeling overwhelmed. Knowing scripture connects you to the living God and gives us all comfort that we are never, never alone.
Jesus promises that "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." Every week, Chaplain sends out a prayer list. Maybe you've looked at it like a newsletter, but on that list are people who have requested prayers for healing, comfort, guidance, peace. They are asking to be lifted up through our prayers. I used to think that people said they would pray for you when they couldn't think of anything else to say. That is until my mastectomy and six months of chemo. That's when I felt the power of prayer. Prayers are for making petitions for others, giving thanks for your many blessings, and making petitions for yourself.
Growing up, I had a red felt banner in my room and on it was a picture of Lucy from the Peanuts cartoon. The caption read, "I love mankind, it's people I can't stand." I personally have always said, "If it weren't for my family, I could be such a good Christian." Let's face it, going to a Day of the Girl rally sounds a lot more appealing to most of you, than spending the day alone with your stepmom. But, it's people, God has called us to serve. I think the hardest aspect about being a servant to one another is that it means putting down the "to do" list. It means sacrificing our agenda to follow Christ's. It means that when we are swamped with papers to grade, we welcome our colleague at our office door to come in and talk about her devastating divorce. It means sacrificing our precious down time reserved for binge watching Gossip Girls, to comfort a classmate, we barely know, who feels overwhelmed. This is where the phrase from the La Befana story should convict us all, "but it was too late." Here's the cold hard truth, we are either there, in that moment, when someone needs us, or we aren't. We can try and make it up to them later, like La Befana flying on her broom stick for two thousand years. In the Gospel reading from Luke today, when Martha comes and complains to Jesus that her sister, Mary isn't helping her prepare and serve the food, but rather sitting at his feet listening to him, Jesus's response is: "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her."
We need to remember "the better part" for our lives. The "to do" lists we will have with us always, but the chance to show others the love of God, comes at unexpected and often inconvenient times. Getting your comments in on time is rewarding, but it will not change your life. Nor will getting a mani or pedi, but feeling the power of the Holy Spirit working through you, will.
Let us be ever watchful this Advent season, thru scripture, prayer, and loving one another, for the coming of Christ.