Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Princess and the Pea

When I was growing up in the mountains of southwest Virginia, God had blessed my family with the beautiful gift of being able to have horses in our lives.  I did not appreciate that immense gift for many years to come, but I did enjoy riding them.  I had this beautiful horse named Babe.  She was just the most gentle, loving, and amazing horse.   If you were riding her and began to lean to one side, as if you were going to fall out of the saddle, she'd walk in that direction to make sure you didn't fall.  I once did fall out of the saddle and decided to lead her for a while in the rain, a little fearful to get back on her.  The entire time I walked in front of her she kept nudging me to see if I was ok.

One day I saddled her for a ride and things seemed off.  She seemed distracted, constantly moving in odd ways.  It was as if she was shrugging her shoulders.  Turning her head to try and nip at me.  Even bucking once in a while.  I couldn't figure it out. She had never acted this way.  I rode her for a long while and then got her back to the riding rink.  I began to take off her saddle.  When I did there was a huge sigh of relief from the horse.  I noticed the blanket had a large wrinkle in the middle.   My dad had always told me that you had to make sure the saddle blanket was smooth before putting on the saddle.  I really didn't care I guess, being a teenager I thought I knew all the answers.  When I pulled the blanket off I noticed an almost bare spot on her skin.   What to me seemed unimportant had nearly made a raw place on the poor horses back.

Years later I had my spine fused.  Most of you know that story.  I was in a hospital bed in our living room for a very long time.  I can't remember much of that time.  It was mostly pain, sleep, bathroom, pain, sleep, bathroom.  The medicines they had me on were strong.  My wife took such great care of me.  I remember very clearly though that I had to have the sheets perfectly smooth.  If there was the slightest wrinkle, the slightest fold.. it would make my back scream in pain.  I am sure I was a pain to live with.. but I learnt first hand what I had put my beautiful friend through all those years ago.  What doesn't seem like a big deal, what seems insignificant, can create quite a bit of pain.. even begin to rub you raw if you give it enough time.

That brings me back again to today's readings.  We see John the Baptist beginning to prepare peoples hearts for the message they will receive from Christ.  We see the message from both Isaiah and Baruch that we must make crooked things straight, fill in the valleys and lower the mountains, until the pathway is smooth.  Just like a saddle blanket prepares the horse for a saddle and a bedsheet prepares the bed for the occupant, so too must the pathway be made ready for him who will walk on it.  We see Jesus use parables about seeds and farming.  In those parables the seed goes into the soil.  We are that soil.  We are the path that Jesus will walk on.  Our body is the temple that He resides in.

How powerful an image is that?  That is why during this Advent we are supposed to examine our hearts.  Our hearts are the place where God is supposed to reside.  We must ask ourselves, are there any things in there, no matter how small... no matter how tiny it may seem.. but anything that makes the path unsmooth?  It may not seem like much.  Our flesh may even try to convince us that "Oh that?  Nah that's being too picky."  Look closely.  Then ask God to clear it from you.  You see the horse is our heart, the saddle blanket our preparation, the saddle the gentle yoke of Christ.  The Holy Spirit is coming to bring Christ into the world.   He is to be born again, born again in our hearts every second of every day.  Is there anything standing in the way?  Anything that keeps us from wanting that saddle on us?  Remember, it might not seem like much at first.. but eventually it begins to dig in.. it begins to chaff.. to rub.. to make raw places.... Let God get all of it out of the way. 

I keep hearing people say God loves you and wants you just the way you are.  I agree.  He does indeed love you, and he wants you to come to Him regardless of your sins.. regardless of your bumps, bruises, folds and wrinkles.  He loves you too much to leave you there.  He wants to smooth things out.  He wants to make the pathway straight, the blanket pleasant, the sheet fit perfectly.  He loves you just the way you are.. but too much to leave you that way.  So open your heart, your mind, your soul to the Holy Spirit that he may prepare a manger for the coming King.  Then allow Him to be born in your heart, over and over... until that day when you are born again into His kingdom and he says to his Church, "take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship."