Sunday, December 27, 2015

Homily on Unexpected Gifts by Donna Rougeux ARCWP on December 27, 2015 in Lexington, KY. 1 Samuel 2:18-26 Luke 2:41-52

Donna Rougeux, ARCWP, Chaplain in Lexington, KY. 

Mary and Joseph were searching for their child and could not find him. Can you imagine how scared they were?  It took them three days before they looked for Jesus in the temple. Knowing what we know now about who Jesus is, we may have looked first for Jesus in the temple. But Jesus was still young and his parents did not yet grasp the complete purpose of their son’s life.
The two readings today talk about Jesus and Samuel as young boys. As these boys grew up the scripture says they grew in wisdom, and “in divine and human favor.”  When Jesus was found in the temple he was among the teachers listening to them and asking them questions. The scripture says “all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” These stories are giving us a glimpse into the childhood of two key figures in the Bible, Samuel and Jesus. The messages in these stories show us how God is revealed when there is growth in wisdom. Growth in wisdom is part of the human experience for us just as it was for Samuel and Jesus.
Scripture scholar William Danaher writes about today’s gospel reading and says that it
“teaches that God can be found even in difficult familial circumstances. It teaches that God’s wisdom is available to the young as well as to the old, which means that we must make room for God to surprise us with unexpected revelations given by unusual messengers. It teaches us that though God’s wisdom and holiness remind us of our limitations, it is precisely within these limitations that wisdom is often revealed. The incarnation represents the moment in which this wisdom enters the human sphere in all its contradictions, so that nothing is left without transformation and transfiguration.”
I had an experience last week that surprised me with an unexpected experience of God’s presence in my own limitations of preparing for our Christmas program. I was amazed by this experience just as the people in the temple were amazed by young Jesus’ understanding and answers.  I want to share a reflection I wrote about this amazing thing that happened.
The Christmas Program That Almost Wasn’t
Was it a coincidence or was it a gift from God? We had the poem called, “Twas the Night of Christ’s Birth,” by Donna Miles. We had the costumes that we borrowed from a local church.  We had the idea of reading the poem and letting children bring it to life by posing for many different scenes in the poem as it was read.  We had the second part of the program rehearsed and ready. The resident choir was ready to sing carols after the poem was read. What we didn’t have yet, were the children to wear the costumes and be in the program.
On the day of the practice for the program one child was there.  Due to this disappointing turn out for the practice session I posted more signs and talked to lots of people asking them to bring their children to work to participate in the program on Wednesday. (I thought to myself “we can do this without a rehearsal, right?”) I was not ready to give up on the idea although I was starting to think I needed a back-up plan. And yes, I prayed that there would be children for our program but my prayer was tainted with a small amount of cynicism. My rationale mind was saying, “you better have a back-up plan because there will be no children.”
It was Wednesday at 1:00pm and I began getting ready for the program that would take place at 2:30. I knew for sure that two children were going to participate because their moms told me they would be there. I needed more than two children but strangely I still had this irrational hope that we would have children for the program. At 1:30 our activities director said, “the children are here.” I went into our living room and there were several parents with their children. I noticed that the children had on Christmas attire and reindeer ears but I just went in with the costumes and started asking the children who wanted to be Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds or kings. The kids were very enthusiastic and one child asked, “We are going to be in a program?” I said, “Yes we are having a program and you arrived just in time.”  When I ran out of children and said I needed a few more shepherds two of the moms volunteered to be shepherds! The dad who was there asked me if he could do anything to help.  I said, “Yes, you can read the poem.”  We had the program and the residents’ eyes lit up when they saw the children. We pulled it off!
The next day I asked our activities director if she knew the parents and children who came in at just the right moment and she said, “No, I thought you did.” I was able to call one of the parents of the children who participated in the program because she was a past CNA at our facility. I called her and told her that if they had not come in when they did I would have only had two children to participate in the program. I asked her what prompted them to bring the children in. She said that she and her friends talked about wanting to do something for the elderly with their children. She told her friends that she used to work at Bluegrass Care and Rehabilitation Center so they decided to visit our facility.  She called and asked what time would be a good time to visit that day and then brought the children over.
I am still laughing and smiling about how all of this worked out. Was it a coincidence or a gift from God? Was I a poor planner and too hopeful for just hanging on to the idea that we would have children when we needed them? I am so thankful for the gift of these parents and children who came to our home just in time to be in our Christmas program. And I am pretty convinced that this was not a coincidence. It was a wonderful gift from God with the help of children and parents who just freely gave of themselves. The timing and coordination of their gift came from the Divine One who knew where and when the children were needed.
We often do not know the significance of our gifts and how a simple willingness to give to others can be used in surprising ways. I am convinced that if we stay open and willing to give of ourselves God will do the rest. Our simple gifts of time and talent will be transformed into a tangible presence of God-with-us in a Christmas program, or in many other unexpected times and places. Saying yes to God is filled with unexpected outcomes of love, peace and joy in times, places and ways that are sometimes hard to explain. But when you think about it there really is no need for explanations there is just a need for open hearts. God is ready and willing to use our gifts in great and small ways just when they are needed.

We never stop growing and being surprised by new experiences of God’s wisdom and guidance. We must welcome this new growth and new wisdom because we are never to old to grow in faith and wisdom. Have you experienced an unexpected new understanding of God lately? As we come to the end of 2015 and begin to step into 2016 I pray that each of us will stay open to more growth in wisdom and in divine and human favor. May we always be able to make room for God to surprise us with bursts of abundant tangible love, joy and peace.

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