We have this morning, on this Second Sunday of Christmas, the Gospel reading actually appointed for Christmas Day – the Gospel of John, chapter one.
In a very straightforward way, we hear about how Jesus – this newborn babe in swaddling clothes lying in a manger – is actually God in the flesh.
If we’re to take anything from this passage from John’s gospel, it is the notion of God’s desire to be among us, to be close to us, in the person of Jesus.
God is not some far-off, uninterested deity residing in the far reaches of the galaxy.
Rather, this God of the universe makes a home in our world, in our hearts.
And this notion is incredibly assuring and encouraging.
Especially as we live our lives and run into the inevitable suffering and sorrow that comes with staying alive for any long period of time.
And on this Sunday, the first of the New Year 2016, hearing, and taking in, that encouragement and assurance from God, is so vital.
And we are encouraged and assured, not because of anything we’ve done or plan to do, but because of who God is, and what God has been doing, and promises to do.
On this dawn of a new year, we realize we have twelve fresh, new months, spread before us like a buffet.
We wonder what will fill these sparsely noted calendar pages.
Human nature being what it is, we tend to …
… rush forward to figure out what we need to be doing to make it a
… proclaim resolutions,
… compose to-do lists,
… attack with vigour looming projects,
… chart out strategies and plans.
We rush to get busy, anxiously filling up our calendars with activities and projects… believing that our actions alone will create the good we long for.
I love the story about the professor, standing before his time-management class.
He had an object lesson for the class.
He had a gallon-sized jar, and began to fill it with fist-sized rocks.
And then, he then asked the class members, “Is this jar full?”
They all answered yes.
Then, the professor reached for a bucket of gravel, and poured it into the jar, allowing the smaller stones to settle around the larger ones.
Again, he asked, “Is the jar full?”
And again, the class replied with a resounding yes.
The professor then produced a container of sand, which he poured into the jar, and which filled in the empty spaces.
Again, the same question, “Is the jar full?”
This time, only a few students nodded yes.
Finally, the professor brought in a pitcher of water, which he poured into the jar, and filled the jar to the brim.
His demonstration completed, he asked the class: “Now, what is the moral of this lesson?”
One clever student immediately raised his hand and proclaimed proudly, “The point of your illustration is that no matter how much you have to do, you an always fit something else in!”
“No,” replied the professor. “The moral of the lesson, is that if you don’t put your big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”
Putting in the “big rocks” in first.
The “big rocks” — the priorities, not only in actions and activities, but in principles, ideas, convictions, faith and worldview.
What are those “big rocks” we need to put in first, in our own lives?
How about: slowing down, pausing, and recognizing that everything we have, and all that we are, is from God – the good, generous, abundant, loving hand of God?
What about: realizing that whatever we do or plan to do, however we might fill our calendars with good activities and projects, is always in the context of the larger narrative of God’s actions to mend our broken world?
The “big rocks” of a living awareness of God’s divine presence active and operating in the world, in our families, in our communities and churches, and in our hearts.
And everything else – all the other “smaller rocks and sand and water” – is secondary.
You can notice this in all the scripture readings today, but in particular, for example, in the Psalm, how frequently “God” is the subject – the main character, the instigator, the protagonist – of many of the sentences and paragraphs …
… how it is God who establishes peace, who sends out commands, God who gives snow, scatters hail and sends for the word to melt it, God who blows the wind and makes the waters flow.
God is the Mover and Shaker; no one else.
You can see this also in the Jeremiah passage, how God is the One to bring everyone together, to comfort, and to heal.
Whatever good we do is part of the larger current, the larger movement of God’s healing and mending actions in the world.
Much like canoeing, or rowing in a boat, down a river.
The river has a current which moves the boat down the river on the strength of the current alone.
We when get into a canoe, and start paddling downstream with the current, our actions…
…of dipping the oar into the water,
…of steering the canoe in the right direction –
All of those actions are in line with, in sync with, the larger and more powerful action of the underlying current over which we have no control.
The current is like Divine presence and action in the world – mending the universe, restoring justice and peace – all those good things we see in people and events around us.
The good actions we choose to do, and plan to do in the New Year – for example:
… caring for an ailing parent (dropping by for visits, taking him or her to a doctor’s appointment)
… being a loving spouse and a responsible parent to our children,
… sticking with and doing a good job at work, or a good student at school,
Those good actions, are like regularly dipping your paddle into the current of the river,
… going with the flow of God’s grand current of goodness,
…. having our actions in sync with the Spirit of God.
Let’s help each other, over the New Year, figure out what “big rocks” we need to be putting into the “jar” of our lives – what attitudes, behaviours, activities and priorities we need to be about.
And in so doing, we give witness to the light and love of God who has come to be among us…. and who is active and present in our lives and world.