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Leaning In

The Rev. Jennifer Adams – December 2, 2012 – Advent 1, Year C: Luke 21:25-36

I’m guessing that many of you have at some point in your lives visited the shores of Lake Michigan just before or during a big storm.  Stormy lake days have the ability to tweak our curiosity and even tug a little bit at our sense of adventure so most of us have found ourselves down there as the clouds begin to roll in.  It seems like the pull of the Lake on those days can be almost as strong as it is on hot, sunny days.  So, if you have had this experience of being there while a storm broke in over the horizon, remember that experience with me now; if you haven’t had such an experience, simply listen in to an amazingly beautiful thing that nature does.

The first thing I always notice when I arrive at the beach on those kinds of days is the wind. It can actually be hard to open your car door if your car is angled just so.  The power of the wind on those days is such that it can very literally throw off your balance and even tip you over if you’re not careful.  But here’s what I love: because of that incredible power, the wind is also strong enough to hold you up if you lean into it just right.  You can picture this can’t you?  If you lean in one direction you lose your balance completely.  But if you’re patient and lean just right, slightly into the wind and actually forward into the oncoming storm, you get held.  On a stormy day at the Lake, you can discover that sort of tentative yet hopeful “leaning into” that allows the wind in all of its overwhelming yet settling power to hold you in place.

Now with the wind often comes rain, sometimes snow, and always at the very least, blowing sand. So this day at the beach isn’t just a day at the beach.  This whole “let’s go to the Lake on a stormy day” thing is not a passive sort of experience – stormy beach days require a certain sort of awareness and attentiveness that isn’t always the case on other sorts of days.  On stormy days, you have to be particularly attentive to your eyes, how you are watching and where you are looking matter a lot.  And if you look up you notice that even the sky is in motion – often moving faster than it usually does.  And to look towards the Lake is to know that the waves are amazing – they remind you not only of the beauty of these days but also about the power of the water itself.  The waves can be huge- they’re almost unbelievable for a body of water that isn’t the ocean.  On stormy days the Lake displays an incredible amount of power for a body that is right here in the midst of where we live every day– the waves on these days are absolutely stunning and terrifying, dangerous and beautiful all at the same time.

And the sounds too drown out just about everything else you can hear, but because you can’t hear anything else they’re also strangely peaceful.  The magnitude of the sounds means that their presence is all that can matter that moment.  While our attentions are usually pulled in several directions at one time, during stormy days at the Lake, it’s nearly impossible to pay attention to anything but the stormy day at the lake.

And all of that is some of what those days are like – you can lean into the wind which will shake your every step, but if you lean just right can also almost miraculously hold you in a place that is very still.   You can feel the elements whipping up all around you and so the storm demands your absolute and undivided attention.  And on those kinds of days there is so much to watch, even the sky is in motion, so much to hear, so much that it all has the ability to remind everyone who is present that we stand in the midst of something powerful and beautiful and so very much larger than ourselves.

And Advent is like all of that.  We stand this morning at the beginning of a new Church year; there are four Sundays between us and Christmas and according to the gospel, the elements are shifting all around us. There’s a great wind blowing through here that will challenge our sense of balance even while that very same wind invites us to lean in and be held and learn to trust the stillness that we find in its arms.  The sounds are different too as this seasonal upheaval blows through – next week we’ll hear the roaring of a prophet in the wilderness; John the Baptist will demand our attention in ways that open our eyes and turn our hearts and we won’t have much of an option other than to listen to his words.  And as the season moves along we’ll hear the gently roaring sound of the Magnificat as Mary sings of “the greatness of the Lord” – the Lord who like the mystery of the waves will show the strength of his arm, scatter the proud in their conceit and cast down the mighty from their thrones, even while mercy is shown and the lowly are lifted and the hungry filled.

And so this morning, Advent I, a storm has blown in off the Lake; the Body that is so very close to our every day is demanding that we stand up, raise our heads, watch, and stay alert!  If we adjust a bit and lean in just right, we too can discover a holy sort of stillness in the arms of a miraculous gift.  Because this season we stand on the shores of something much greater than ourselves.

So pay attention, everyone!  Don’t miss the power. Don’t miss the beauty. Our redemption is drawing near.

Amen.