1 Advent, Sunday, November 27, 2011
Preached by The Rev. Mary Catherine Young
Chaplain for Campus Ministry, Canterbury Downtown
Diocese of New York
Which would you prefer? A store-bought cookie, made by "elves," or something hand-made by someone you know, and who knows you? (Well, maybe your answer depends on who baked those cookies...) but still, there is nothing like a homemade cookie made with intention for another's enjoyment,
brought, fresh from the oven, and warm in your belly.
When the urge hits me, I love to make cookies.
The preparation for this activity begins with the inspiration, the desire to create something good, for me to enjoy, and to share: what kind of cookies shall I make? Who are they made for? How many will a batch yield?
I then gather the proper ingredients, get out the my bowls (my favorite multicolor Pyrex mixing bowls, of course), measure out the amounts of flower, sugar and vanilla extract, crack the eggs, melt the butter, grease the cookie sheets, and most importantly, call forth some good old elbow grease. Once everything has been mixed together in its proper order, its time to separate out the serving sizes - will they be small bite-size, or human head sized cookies? (Each has their benefit). Then they must be placed in the oven to bake. Time goes by, the timer dings, the trays are removed, and the cookies need to be placed on a cooling rack for at least a few moments, because tasting one too quickly out of the oven can mean a burned mouth, ruining the ability to enjoy another taste! And of course, a cold glass of milk has to be poured to accompany the special delivery to the mouth.
That's where the real payoff is - receiving the delicious joyful mouth full of freshly made cookie goodness, and handing them over to those you made them for - to share the joy with them. After all, I've never known a batch of cookies to be in an number sized just for one - in fact, my experience of baking cookies is always an abundance, that just seems to keep on giving.
Now there are all kinds of easy ways to get a cookie into your mouth - especially in this city filled with pastry shops, cupcake carts and of course, grocery stores with good ol' Oreos. But the satisfaction of taking the time to prepare something for yourself, and for someone else, the mixing and the batter tasting, the preheating of the oven and waiting for the right time to pass before pulling the tray out, the taste of that classic, love imbedded treat when it melts in your mouth...there's so much more to that, than to the experience of buying a box of cookies, opening the package, and having one on the street. There is purpose that pays off immensely, when we allow ourselves to experience something over the course of time, like the season of Advent.
Today we enter together, a new year in the church calendar. In our faith tradition its is not Christmas where the story begins, though it is a story of new birth, but as with the story of creation, there is always a story that comes before... The season of Advent is about what came before. Who was there? How do their stories impact our identity? What must we learn from them, so that we do not make the same mistakes? It's a time of journey toward, not only the cresch of the Christ child, but toward the in-breaking of God into human history in a way that surprised and so rewarded us with the gift of God's grace, God's abundant love, God's renewed covenant of his call to his people to know him... So many gifts, in fact, that we celebrate that story with an event rooted in generosity - the season of Christmas that is the reward at the end of the Advent journey -- that is the cookie that comes after the inspiration, the preparation, the waiting and the moment of joy at its fruition.
But ,remember the Christmas we have noted, comes at the end of Advent, it comes after a season of preparation, of getting ourselves, our families, our homes, our hearts, our lives ready of the in-breaking of Christ. In the Gospel today, we receive a glimpse of apocalyptic storytelling - from Mark we hear Jesus, speaking of preparedness for the end times - the time when the Lord will break into our human story once again, the time when judgement will come, the judgement described in last week's Gospel, the separation of the sheep from the goats, the judgment of how we spent our lives, our hearts, our generosity on those whom Jesus called his sheep, his children, himself as the one in need being served.
In this week's Gospel, we hear the instruction - keep alert, keep awake, for you do not know when the master will return and truly we continue to be on call, on the line, on watch for that moment, and in the meantime we are about the business of being God's people in the world.
This Advent, this season of preparation, I call on you to consider how you are preparing for the feast of thanksgiving and celebration of Christ's entry into the world. How will your celebration honor and reflect the gifts that God has given us? The gifts of grace, love, healing, hope, reconciliation, resurrection? Will your time be sent waiting in line to get the best price on a new digital camera, or will you consider new ways to reflect the generosity you are capable of? Will you find the opportunity to give thanks to those you care the most about in a way that is meaningful, hope-filled, and allows you to see Christ in others, and other to see Christ in you? Or will you say it with a gift card?
The season of Advent is not a stressful countdown to the great disappointment that your tight budget and empty wallet has to offer to you, but a reminder to walk toward the gift of Christ's presence in the world, with humility, honor, hope, love, and a desire to be a part of making God's gifts of peace and reconciliation possible in this world, today. The season of Advent puts us in the practice of bringing together the elements that, when stirred together in a bowl, placed in the oven and allowed to bake and to become, ultimately results in a creation we too played a hand in, and is much more satisfying than the one that can be bought in a store.
Let this Advent slow you down, allow you to consider how you want to be a part of God's generosity, and set your gaze beyond the relief of December 26, and toward the invitation to be awake and ready for God's next in-breaking into our story. Amen.