Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Gaps

          This is the last Sunday of this year. It’s the Sunday that falls in between two Wednesday holidays.  And on the liturgical calendar we are in between the birth of the Messiah and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.
          There’s a gap, a bit of downtime, a silence, between the two events. In the gospel lesson for today we heard of Joseph’s dreams, the atrocious slaughter of the infants by Herod, a refugee family fleeing into exile and their return. All that and yet we can see that from the beginning of these events to the end of the last one many years have passed. These are gaps in time we know nothing about. We can only guess what might have taken place. There are spaces in time missing from this story.
Today, for a moment, reflect on the gaps we encounter: the times of silence in our lives, the empty time when we’re between jobs, the uncertain time when we’ve retired and yet haven’t planned how we’ll fill our idle time, the pauses when we read a sentence of scripture when we come to a comma or a semi-colon, the interludes in a piece of music. What do we do with the gaps, the silences when we encounter them? Do we try to fill the void or do we leave it alone? What do we do with them?
The other side of this reflection is how do we feel when there’s a gap in time or there’s absolute silence? Are we comfortable or not so comfortable with the gaps? Do we feel alone, abandoned, anxious, or fearful or do we get a sense that we’re not alone?
I think many times when the pauses are too long, the silence to deep, the spoken words too far apart we have a strong tendency to rush in and fill the void. We have a low tolerance to the long, quiet stillnesses, the gaps in time because we feel like we’re alone.
My friends, what I pray that we learn today is that, we’re never alone. The presence of God is always with us, even when we feel as if He’s abandoned us because of some wrong we think He’d never forgive us for. Even then He’s with us.
What we learn from those who have chosen lives of quiet and contemplation is that often it’s in the silence when God speaks to us.
Isaiah 30:15. There you find God speaking to the people of Israel and he says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…”
If you read on you’ll find that God’s children wouldn’t have any of that and so they suffered. In verse 18 we then read how God “longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
That may be where we fall down. We’re too impatient to wait. We can’t abide the silences and the gaps. We feel alone in the silence. And so we impulsively forge ahead, many times doing the wrong things and we end up hurt just like the people of Israel and Judah, the chosen children of God.
Even with all their rebellion God never left their side, never completely abandoned them. In fact that’s why Jesus came to earth as a baby.
So, my friends, in the silence we’re not alone. In the gaps in time in our lives we’re never really alone. Jesus, Immanuel, God is always with us.
And these gaps, these silences aren’t bad things even though we may not like them anymore than we like change. In the silences, if we listen, God may speak to us. In the gaps of our lives we are never alone because God is with us, Immanuel.
The gaps, the silences are necessary for us. Just as rests in music gives us a place to breathe, the silences, the gaps, give God a chance to speak to us. As we sit breathing in and out in the silence paying attention to the rhythm of our breaths God comes to sit with us, becoming one with us in the silence.
As we become one with God and God with us we become attuned to the thoughts of God. The more time we spend in the silence the more opportunities God has to converse with us.
This isn’t so far fetched as some may think. If a couple has been married for quite a while we notice that sometimes one or the other finishes sentences the other one’s started. It’s almost like they know what the other is thinking. 
Our relationship with God is the same, I think. The more time we spend with God the more we grow in God’s likeness. It’s almost like we know what God’s thinking. And we know that God knows what we’re thinking, if we believe in God. That’s the key, believing.
My friends, I ask that you believe that God is always with you, never abandons you, and is speaking to you in the gaps and the silences. Embrace that silence and listen as God speaks his word to you.

Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.

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