3rd Sunday of Advent 2020
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: December 13, 2020
“We have to lick the ice cream when we can!”
You may remember that I worked at Dofasco Steel for 30 years, many in the operations management part of the plant.
In a steel plant there are so many things that can go wrong, and most of the time do!
If it wasn’t an injury in the plant, there was an unplanned maintenance shutdown, or maybe a quality problem with some steel for Toyota, or a dark puff of smoke into the environment or of course an unplanned cost issue.
There was always something each day, though on some occasions, everything would run well with no concerns in any area and I would say to the team “enjoy it, lick the ice cream while we can”.
Licking the ice cream means to appreciate the moment, don’t get distracted by what had happened in the past or what might happen in the future, but enjoy today, before you see a melted dripping ice cream in your hand that you forgot about because you were so focused on the past or future.
Today’s readings challenge us this same thing – to appreciate the present moment for what positives there are.
St. Paul says in the 2nd reading: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
What a great message to the Thessalonians 2000 years ago and to us today.
The Thessalonians were very stressed, they were being persecuted by the people around them, their property was taken away, they were shunned by their families and some were even beaten and put to death.
Today we have the Covid virus with millions of people around the world infected, and hundreds of thousands have died including people in our own community.
So when Paul tells them and us to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances, we may think that he is being unrealistic.
Can he really mean always and in all circumstances? Doesn’t he realize this is a global pandemic that hasn’t been seen in over 100 years! Surely he doesn’t expect that now?
But St. Paul does mean it! He wants them to be licking the ice cream all the time, rejoicing and being grateful every day!
Is this possible for us today? What do we learn from the other readings today?
In the psalm we have sung today, it is one of the only psalms or songs that are not from the book of Psalms in the Old Testament.
The verses we have sung today are the ones that Mary said to Elizabeth when she went to visit her.
Think of the perspective…here is a young Jewish girl, who was told by an angel that she would be an unwed mother in a time in which the shame would have been unimaginable. It was a time in which the Jewish people lived under Roman occupation in horrible circumstances. She was travelling pregnant through the countryside to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant under unusual circumstances.
So we have a scared, young girl who is told by her cousin: “Blessed are you among women; blessed is the fruit of your womb; blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
We can imagine that Mary was thinking how could I possibly be the mother of the Saviour? What does this mean?
And yet we know that her answer mirrors what St. Paul asks us, full of joy and thankfulness she says:
‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, and why? “for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.”
Mary has no illusions that she is so much better than anyone else, but instead, she is proud to be fulfilling her role in God’s plan with the birth of Christ.
She goes on to say “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me,” in other words she is only blessed because of what God has done for her, not how great she is!
What a great lesson for each of us as we are fulfilling God’s plans also in our daily lives by living the unique mission that he has called us to! God acts through us and it is not our super spirituality that drives the mission.
We hear this same gratitude for fulfilling God’s mission in the 1st reading in Isaiah’s words: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord”.
We hear this message of humility in fulfilling God’s mission in the gospel as John the Baptist says I am not the light but I came to testify to the light.
The beautiful message we hear today is that God wants us to have a life of joy and gratitude, of prayer and connection to Him!
We have joy and gratitude not in some naïve state of seeing nothing going on in the world, but instead for knowing that despite sickness, war, stress, etc., we have joy and give thanks for the present love we feel when we pray; and for the promise of the future of eternal life.
We have joy and gratitude because God gives us the talents and support and grace for the mission he has anointed us to fulfill!
How do we give joy and gratitude? We do it by “living a life worthy of the gospel” and allowing the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be turned into the fruits and exude them in our lives and especially in our interactions with others.
When people see us as we live this life we are called to, they are to see joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and of course love!
We can do it because as St. Paul tells us “the one who calls you is faithful and he will do this!
So how do we live this message each day in this time of pandemic?
How do we even see the ice cream so we can eat it?
Well I am thankful to say that this past week I have met some people in our parish that can tell us how. We were visiting people in need for their Christmas help from our giving tree.
These are the people who are already in distress in many cases, living in subsidized housing, many single mothers with multiple children whose lives are stressful on a good day. Or elderly people living alone as we all try and protect them from the virus.
And yet, when we visit, we get a smile and a comment “this is the best present I could have gotten” “we are so glad to see you” “Merry Christmas”, with love and joy in the hearts.
What I learned this past week is that despite whatever is going on there is always something to be thankful for, no matter how small, no matter how brief.
We can recognize it as that key moment in our day, a gift from God to show that us that he is still there watching over us, and then we can realize that God loves us so much and “we can lick the ice cream when we can”!