Ever feel like you just don’t know where that heart went? How easy it seems for us to lose the perspective of what is left of us being right and good. All of us feel like we give of ourselves to our job, our partner, our family, our church, our favorite charity and on it goes. We begin to think we do not have a heart left. If you haven’t felt that way at one time or another, I wish you would send me the rules to play by. I seem to have missed that class in seminary or any “ary”!
Yes, I am jesting, but not entirely. My right spirit that God gave me seems to have flown out on that broom I sometimes am accused of riding in on. “I gave at the office,” I say. And soon I am redirected that it wasn’t their office. So where is my right spirit and clean heart? I feel the heart beating and the spirit hasn’t left me yet. Psalm 51 is still valid and the prayer works. I have not been cast away from God’s presence.
The restoration of a willing spirit and the joy of salvation are mine. I am reminded of these things as Advent will soon be here. I wait in great and humble prayer for the time but wonder that I will be able this year to share the excitement and joy of the coming of the Baby Jesus with others. Sure I preach it. Sure I know it. Sure I love the season. But do I really welcome and seek the true meaning with a clean heart and right spirit.
I believe that a fundamental reason for the season is to remind me and all of us of why we are here. God came to earth in the form of a human to take away the sins of the world. God did not take away the challenges and choices of the day to day living. We have free will and though our will gets us into places that are definitely not free, we are allowed that, because the need to be and the need for God to be in us twists and turns us sometimes until we forget our true purpose in the season of Advent.
“Good is to be done, promoted and evil is to be avoided,” so states Dallas Willard. That’s good for all year but we seem to think about it at Christmas more than at any other time of the year. That is not a bad thing but wouldn’t it be compelling if we were to think of that clean heart and right spirit all year through.
At this coming Advent season, it is difficult not to take time and listen. Business’ will increase to a frenzied pace. Canned carols will blast out over the noise of the daily traffic. Bells will jingle. Santas will freeze in Chicago, while their counterparts stay cozy and warm in Florida. Then it is Christmas Eve. The last business door closes. All the busyness stops. Everything is silentfor one brief day. Oh the wonder of that day.
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20).
That clean heart and right spirit will come when we start remembering that Jesus was given to us at the Christmas time; not just at that time of the year but all year through. God has not forgotten us. We are the ones who have forgotten. At Advent it all comes flooding back only to recede soon after. It feels a lot like a rushing tide. I hope we stop and remember before the flood of the world takes us away.
A tragedy of our time is that, instead of recognizing Christmas as God’s call to us to work on that clean heart and right spirit, we look for a vision or some emotional high; something electric as a sign of God’s presence. And in that looking for those grand things, we miss him. When Christ came the first time, he wasn’t recognized. He didn’t come the way they expected.
Will he come this year as we expect? This year don’t miss Him. Take time to listen. Be still and hear the true message of Christmas which, above all, is a call to remember that God has not forgotten us, but is involved in all the affairs of humankind. Two thousand years ago he came to earth in person to save us.
This season I hope all of us can look beyond the toys that it takes to win as we celebrate the true meaning of the time of Christ’s birth. As we search for and find that clean heart and right spirit that comes from knowing that we are loved by God just as we are with all the variations we each have. Our gender is not important to God. This body is but a vessel. The importance comes with that heart that is true and filled with love for all people, most especially those different from us.
Our wonderful world is shrinking. We have the best system for communication ever developed. We can talk to people from all nations of the world in just a split second. We create friends with people whose language is not ours but we can talk via the wonder of computers. We can understand what others say and know more about them in a short time than we could ever know about our neighbors.
It is an amazing time we live in. It is a troubling time. The nations are at war. We speak to people of other countries as our friends and do not know our neighbor. Wars are begun with an angry word and peace comes through kindness of spirit and fair words. The peace that can begin with us in this coming Advent season can bring peace to many. Begin the journey toward Bethlehem this year with a sustaining prayer and peace of heart keeping vigil all through the year on that clean heart and right spirit.
Ordained in August 2006, Rev. Suzie Chamness served as Senior Pastor of Spirit of Life MCC of New Port Richey, Fla., beginning in 2009, having served as volunteer clergy for the congregational care ministry at King of Peace MCC and as chaplain at Bon Secours Maria Manor senior care facility, both in St. Petersburg, Fla. In June 2006 she earned a masters of divinity degree from the Florida Center for Theological Studies in Miami, followed by a doctorate in ministry from Andersonville Theological Seminary.