This week in our “We Have Gifts to Open” worship series we’ll open yet another precious gift of the Advent season, “The Gift of Presence” — God with us. This is a gift that, while simple and familiar, can also challenge us to expand our awareness and direct our focus.
Signs of God at work are everywhere, once you learn to look for them. These are sometimes things that do not necessarily wow us. God is very often found in the ordinary, as well as in the extraordinary. Opening the Gift of Presence means opening our eyes, our ears, our hearts, and our minds so that we are aware of God in our midst. We notice those things to which we are attuned.
Consider for a moment an old demonstration of this reality. Picture a noisy, crowded New York City sidewalk. Horns are honking, engines are roaring, pedestrians are chattering. There is a sea of people. Someone tosses a handful of coins onto the sidewalk and even though the sound of those coins striking the pavement is clearly no match for the cacophony, some of the pedestrians will stop and look for the coins. They are attuned to that particular sound.
Or there is the old story from the days when the telegraph reigned as the fastest form of communication. Several applicants arrived at the telegraph office in response to a help wanted ad for a telegraph operator. They were asked to wait in an outer room filled with all kinds of noise — people talking, customers coming and going, street noise from outside the door, barking dogs in the alleyway — you get the picture. There was also a telegraph operator sitting behind a desk in that same room.
Suddenly, in the midst of all that noise and distraction, one of the applicants got up and walked through the door into the back room. The manager came out and announced to the other waiting applicants that he was hired on the spot. They became very upset. “Why was he hired? We didn’t even get a chance to interview. We were told to wait, but he got up and went back there, instead of doing what he was told!”
The manager replied, “But he did do what he was told. The whole time you were waiting, the telegraph operator behind the big desk was tapping out the instruction in Morse Code: “If you want this job, get up and walk back through the door to the back office.”
He got the job because his ear was attuned to the sound of the telegraph. He was paying attention.
The gospel of Matthew quotes the passage from Isaiah in reference to the coming of Jesus and the gift of presence: “and his name will be called Emmanuel, God with Us.” (Matthew 1:23) What about our own story of looking for — and finding — God’s presence in our day-to-day life? Where is God at work among us? Where do you see God? Are we attuned? Are we paying attention?
I look forward to exploring this idea more with you on Sunday in the Sanctuary!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster