Sunday, 22 December 2013

On Being STiLL: a Short Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Jesus is STiLL coming again. Jesus is STiLL here. I remember on a visit to Regina eight years ago, asking granddaughter Emily how old she was, "I'm STiLL three," she said with disgust. Growing up was going way too slowly as far as she was concerned. And here we all are—STiLL waiting. Three more sleeps to Christmas. Who knows how many until Jesus returns in power and great glory to beam us all up, or however the Father has decided it will be. The blue lights on the tree are STiLL on. STiLL.

“Be STiLL, and know that I am God," wrote the Psalmist. "I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Ps 46.10)

There's being still and there's being STiLL. There's a bad kind—King Ahaz in this morning's passage from Isaiah 7, for example. He refuses to budge when the prophet Isaiah invites him to ask The LORD for a sign, even when he and his kingdom were in a state dread. Despite The LORD's invitation through Isaiah, Ahaz was STiLL intent on putting his faith in someone false, someone other than The LORD, who would not save him (Is 7.9); the king of Assyria. Not only does that weary God (Is 7.13), that stubborn, I-know-better kind of being STiLL goes nowhere and grows nothing but disappointment.

Then there's the good kind of STiLLness. Paul describes it in the Romans passage, for example; despite all he had been through, the shipwrecks, the beatings and all, he knew who he was in Jesus—STiLL a Servant of Christ Jesus, an apostle, set apart for the gospel (Ro 1.1), STiLL in the grace he had received and in the obedience of faith (Ro 1.5), STiLL called to belong to Jesus (Ro 1.6). Advent STiLLness awakens our spirits to know that Jesus is the ultimate sign given us by The LORD Himself (Is 7.14), and to know who we are in Jesus, too.

And then there's Joseph in the gospel. Had he conformed with the social rules and expectations of his day, he would have divorced Mary because she was pregnant (Mt 1.18). Instead, he listened to the angel of The LORD in the dream (Mt 1.20) and was STiLL, hoping God really is God, and letting God's will unfold. Risking shame and ridicule, what he really did in effect, even though he didn't know it, was put his faith in Jesus.

Which is what exactly what we're being called to do. Put our faith in Jesus, who is here and is STiLL coming again. It wasn't an easy decision for Joseph, and it's STiLL not an easy decision. The social rules and expectations of our day says give Jesus up. We can STiLL risk ridicule if we're known as believers in and followers of Jesus.

I believe The LORD gave me an helpful analogy for all of this yesterday—the STiLL. I know most of us think of moonshine and bootleg whisky when we think of STiLLs, but bear with me. STiLLs make things as pure as possible. Heat is applied, the raw material is boiled producing steam which, in turn, produces a pure distillate of essential oils or water or whisky.

Like a STiLL, being STiLL in Advent, or at any other time, raises the spiritual temperature in and around us as we refuse the evil and choose the good (Is 7.15 & 16), and keep asking for the sign, for more of that sign, more of Jesus—that will purify us. Being STiLL and knowing who we are in Jesus, like Paul; will help us bring Jesus into the world, like Joseph and Mary.

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). (Mt 1:23)

God STILL is, in Jesus.

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