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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Homily

Advent 1, Year A
Thanksgiving for Skye Valentine Higgins
South Sydney Uniting Church
November 28, 2010

Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11b; Matthew 24:36-44


Awareness’

The Advent readings form a rich tapestry of images centred on the truth that God has come among us. In a sense, we do wait again/anew on the God who was born in a stable. And yet the God who came among us is still among us. Advent’s invitation is to become aware anew of the all-pervading presence of the risen Jesus as Emmanuel – God-among-us. We meet the God of Advent in the successes and the failures, the struggles and the decisions of daily living.

Matthew’s invitation to “stay awake” is an invitation to take note of what is happening around us and to respond. How do we respond to the invitation to “stay awake”? How alert are we to the needs of those around us? What do today’s readings call us to change in order to welcome God-among-us?

During the week Nicole and I went to see Fred Lewis at Summer Hill Nursing Home. Fred suffered a stroke a couple of months ago and it’s been quite a rapid shift from Waterloo to Balmain Hospital and now to Summer Hill Nursing Home. He can’t walk and he relies on a recliner chair to get around. The nurses say he is often agitated and disoriented. There was a bruise on his hand where he fought against a needle. Nicole and I talked with him for a while. We said that we missed him and that “church” would now come to where he was. I was aware that situations can change so suddenly. I was aware of my own fears. I was aware of my own inadequacies and impotence.

And then Fred asked whether we might make a scrapbook for him to keep photos and cards – pictures from “our Herald”, he said. He asked for prayers, too. I was aware of a spirit that binds us. We talked some more about starting a scrapbook. The promise was binding. Nicole and I said to the nurse on duty: “Think of us as his family.” The nurse took our names and details and I became aware anew of the immense responsibility of church membership and friendship. It’s almost too much to bear.

God bless all nurses and carers. God bless our friend, Fred.

Today’s liturgy features a haiku poem by Heather and a photograph of a Jacaranda tree. Heather is a prolific composer of haiku, and in discussions on Friday we agreed that a haiku for each Sunday in Advent would be a good thing. We agreed that the haiku should be accompanied by photographs of our neighbourhood – and that these printed liturgies should be shared with Fred – for his new scrapbook. The photo we have before us is not one of mine. I’m not sure it’s even from Sydney. I downloaded it from the internet when activities overwhelmed me these past few days. I’ll try again for next week. I’ll need your support, contributions and forgiveness most of all.

God bless our aspirations to friendship; all our efforts to love – to be conscious, to be more aware.

Some of you know that I’ve been in New York with my nephew, and that we had to wake up very early on the day of the New York City Marathon to make it from Brooklyn to Manhattan and then to Staten Island for the start of the race. My nephew Blake is 12, and we woke up at 4.30am in order to catch a 6am bus in Manhattan.

Apart from the early morning and its challenges, and the marathon course itself, of course, my real wake-up call was to responsibilities as an uncle and guardian. Blake wasn’t taking part in the Marathon and went to stay with a family we’d met just two days before. [He’d arrived in New York completely exhausted and shaken by the flight and homesickness. He’d eaten a whole Hershey’s chocolate bar at JFK Airport, then thrown up in the speeding cab to Brooklyn (a story for his 21st). The first night he’d sobbed himself to sleep.]

I woke up at 4.30am and I was aware that Blake was vulnerable. I was so proud and grateful for the way he handled that race day. It was like he was growing up before my eyes.

I became aware that he is a unique person. His needs differ from mine. Each day I was challenged to listen, negotiate. All day. To ride the waves of emotional and physical tiredness, figure out what to cook for dinner, maintain my sense of humour. A couple of times I really struggled and might have said something I’d later regret. I became aware that Blake has been hurt, that he doubts himself, that he gets depressed, that he needs my attention and my patience. The holiday was not just about me and my needs.

I was aware that parents and guardians face this kind of challenge every day. That’s a staggering thought. It’s an immense responsibility – and I guess there’s an art to it, a wisdom learned over time.

Today I want to acknowledge with respect the commitment of parents and guardians to care of their children. I’m sure it’s not so easy to sleep in once you’re in a position of full-time responsibility for a child. I’m sure “waking up” is often easier than “staying awake” when fatigue takes hold – and when successes and failures seem to blur into one.

God bless all parents and guardians. God bless Skye Valentine Higgins. Amen.

 


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