Happy New Year!
If you know the iconic 1950’s comedy “I Love Lucy,” chances are you have seen the legendary chocolate factory episode, in which the title character, Lucy Ricardo, and her hapless best friend, Ethel Mertz, get jobs wrapping candy on an assembly line. (If you aren’t familiar with the episode, please stop reading now and watch this clip for two minutes of much-needed laughter. You’ll thank me for it!) In a nutshell: Having failed miserably in other departments in the factory, Lucy and Ethel initially think that this assignment is a piece of cake. After all, they just have to wrap each chocolate in paper as it makes its way down the conveyor belt. How hard can it be? Things are going fine, more or less, until the belt starts moving faster and faster and they scramble valiantly to keep up the pace. I won’t spoil the scene for you, but let’s just say that the two become victims of their own success as only Lucy and Ethel can…
When I was in school ministry, I used to show this clip every couple of years or so during Chapel. Yes, I had an agenda, because I wanted to introduce a new generation to the Gospel of Lucy, but even more than that I wanted to highlight what happens when we try to move faster and faster and faster – usually to meet someone else’s expectations. Inevitably, I wound up with students and colleagues alike stopping by my office to talk about how out of control their lives felt, how unreasonably busy they were, and how they just couldn’t keep up. The world demanded more and more and more of them, it seemed, and they felt like failures. I ask you: Where is God in that?
As the calendar turns over to December this weekend, we may start to feel the conveyor belt speeding up, too. All around us in the secular world we get messages to hurry up, buy, decorate, bake, do, do, do, do. How many shopping days are left? If you aren’t stressed, you must be doing something wrong; you must not have the “holiday spirit.” Where is God in that?
This is when I thank God for the Church. This Sunday, December 1, begins the holy season of Advent, that time of spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ. During Advent we are invited to slow, if not stop, the conveyor belt. Advent offers a much-needed reminder that our time and God’s time are not the same. This weekend we enter into a new Church year: we change the color of the hangings on the Altar, we shift our focus from one Gospel to the next (in this case, from Luke to Matthew), and our liturgy encourages us to pause and listen deeply for the voice of God.
It is most appropriate that we will celebrate our new ministry here at St. Dunstan’s during this Season of New Beginnings. It’s worth asking at this juncture in our life together: Where is God at work in our parish? How might God be calling us to be out of sync, intentionally, with the secular world? What new surprises does God have in store for us all?