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United Church of Jaffrey
December 2nd, 2108
Every morning, when Cary, my wife, leaves for work, she says:
Or she might say…
“I’m late, I really have to go…”
The reason Cary makes these announcements, is because she’s usually in a hurry and she knows that I don’t want her to leave without letting me give her a kiss.
It’s nothing dramatic or anything.
It’s not a Hollywood kiss.
We’re talking about an utterly matter-of-fact-married-for-almost-two-decades-standing-next-to-the-radiator-on-the-way-out-the-door] kiss.
A mere peck.
But I suppose I’m superstitious about it.
I insist on it.
And this everyday kiss… I believe it has theological implications. It is suggestive of the divine in our lives. That, at least, is what I will try to demonstrate with this morning’s sermon.
There are three reasons that I insist on kissing Cary goodbye every day.
The first reason is somewhat predictable but no less important for being so.
No doubt, you’ve already figured it out.
The first reason is simple:
I love Cary.
We like to kiss people that we love.
The kiss tells the person “I love you”
and, assuming the relationship is a good one and the person is happy about the kiss, it also reassures you with the idea: “I am loved.”
Simple, yes. But very nice indeed.
It is worth doing, and I recommend making a habit of it.
The second reason that I want kiss my wife every morning is because of something that happened in 1971, when I was six years old.
I remember the specific year because this thing happened when my father was a visiting professor at the University of Melbourne, in Australia.
Incidentally, it was when I was in Australia that I experienced cold weather for the first time.
Up until that time, I’d lived in Thailand and Singapore, so I’d never worn anything heavier than a t-shirt.
Indoor and out, my childhood had been spent almost entirely barefooted.
So I was in for quite a shock when I walked outside in the cold for the first time in Melbourne Australia… and steam came out of my mouth!
What was this?
I asked my mother if my insides were on fire.
After she stopped laughing, she explained it all to me.
For the next few minutes I did what any self respecting child of 6 would do in 1971, when he discovered vapor coming out his mouth…
I lifted two fingers to my lips, struck a movie star pose, and pretended I was smoking a cigarette!
But I digress… this has nothing to do with what I wanted to tell you.
I intended to tell you about the other momentous thing that happened in Melbourne.
One day, as my father was leaving the apartment where we were staying, he leaned over and kissed my mother!
I was shocked!
Even though I was only 6 years old, I was shocked.
I was shocked, not because they kissed… but because, in that moment, I realized that I’d never seen them kiss before!
It was a formative moment.
I remember it today.
I remember it each day, when I kiss Cary.
I want my kids to have no doubt in their minds that their parents love each other.
I want it to be a well established and totally boring fact that they would never even think to question.
I want them to be shocked if they ever see me not kiss their mom.
Mary as Mom
Today is the first Sunday of Advent.
If the seasons in the life of the church follow the seasons of Christ’s life then Advent is unique.
The Advent season observes the events that led up to Jesus’ birth.
And this, story, of course, must concern his mother, Mary.
In the gospel lesson from Luke’s gospel, that Carol read for us, the Angel Gabriel comes to visit Mary.
This story is well known. The event that takes place even has its own name… Its called The Annunciation.
The renown of this story comes from its famous plot twist.
The Angel tells Mary that she will conceive a child.
But Mary is confused.
“How can this be, since I am a virgin?” She asks
How can this be indeed!
For more than two thousand years, monks and theologians and priests, and ordinary people like you and I, have been trying to figure that one out.
A virgin has a baby?
How does that work exactly?
The standard answer, among the pious, is that it was a miracle.
The standard answer among the atheists is that its baloney.
There are also those who say it is a metaphor.
Regardless of how the virgin birth works, the meaning of it —the why of it, has been a big deal throughout the ages of Christian theological speculation.
The traditional view is that Jesus had to born of a Virgin, so that he would not be tainted by Original sin.
Only someone who was born without sin can be sacrificed to pay the ransom for our sins.
The implication, here, is that the usual process through which a child is conceived (I expect you know the process I mean), is a sin.
I reject this idea.
This idea, that human sexuality causes original sin to be inherited from generation to generation… this a horribly painful and, to my mind, utterly unfounded interpretation of the Bible.
And yet it is understood by many to be basic to our faith.
This doctrine has caused undue pain in our world, and I, myself will not be a part of perpetuating such pain in the name of Christian piety.
So instead of focusing on Mary’s virginity…
I choose to focus on Mary’s humanity.
Mary, like every first time mother in the history of our planet, is about to embark on an extraordinary journey of hope and anticipation.
And this process…
Is how she learns about love.
We wait for those we love.
In a rare moment of direct repetition, Psalm 130 speaks eloquently about this eternal connection between loving, and waiting.
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
This is a fact of the heart.
We long for those we love…
Early Christian thinkers, like the Apostle Paul and Saint Augustine were fixated on what made Mary different from every other mother…
Today we focus on what she has in common with every mother…
Advent — the time of waiting —
Surely this has more in common with the months of gestation than with instant of conception.
I suppose its not surprising that theologians build doctrines on speculations about divine incarnation, rather then on Mary’s pregnancy.
Waiting isn’t exciting
Who wants to wait?
Wait in line
wait for the clothes to dry
Waiting, allows time to do its work on the human soul…
Or the body…
As every woman who has had a child — or every man who has stood by her knows… pregnancy is the ultimate wait…
It is the ultimate transformation of mind, body and heart.
Mary, like all mother’s had time…
time to worry
time to rejoice
time to think
time to grow.
Waiting for another, gives you time to love.
And this brings me to the third reason I insist on giving Cary a little kiss everyday before she leaves.
When I do this, I know that we have gone our separate ways with a tiny reminder of love, so that if…
if she gets stuck in traffic
or her last appointment of the day goes long
or she stops at the coop on the way home
and forgets to let me know…
is a tiny bit less fearful.
Then… When I wait
My waiting is an expression of love.
It is Advent! Let us wait, in love, for the blessed child to be born!