This weekend a group of us went on a retreat to Brown Co. Indiana, more specifically a little town called Bean Blossom. In short, we were in the middle of NOWHERE! It was pretty awesome!The focus of the retreat was self care, not worrying, making sure our focus was not on the troubles of the world but instead on God and Christ. This is a challenge for college student during this time of the year because we are in "dead week" or some are in finals week. All that we have worked for all semester comes down to taking these final exams and being at the mercy of our professors! Emotions are high, stress is an understatement, and we feel like there is no way in the world that everything we need to get done will get done. The light at the end of the tunnel is there but for many during this time of the year it is very dim.
So to share a little thought with you, I use the passage we talked about on the retreat...
Matthew 6:25-34 (NRSV)
Do Not Worry
25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.34 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
I have heard this passage interpreted in many different ways. This weekend when Laura asked us what images came to mind in this passage, I could not help but see a person going around gathering and trying to store up everything that they thought they needed to get through in this life. While doing this God is trying to show them the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the grass, the food, the drink, the clothing, and the person is so caught up in trying to do all alone that they neglect to see the God who created them and cares for them.
How often do we get so caught up in providing things for ourselves and our loved ones that we neglect to see what God is showing us or we neglect to hear what God is telling us? I don't believe God says don't worry so that we will spend all of our time telling God our problems, I believe God is saying "don't worry, because when you get caught up in worrying about the things of this world, you lose sight of the promise I have given you of hope and of peace. When you get caught up in worrying about these things you fail to remember that I created you and I love you and that I am here for you. You spend so much time doing, doing, doing, and going, going, going, that you miss the glimpses of heaven in everyday life."
So do not worry, not during this advent season and not ever. Not because God wants you to spend all of your time in prayer asking God to make your burden light, but because God is calling and God is revealing, open your eyes and ears to the wonders of God's love and God's work in the world around us. Slow down, take time to just be, take time to look at the stars and to watch the sunrise without thinking of the 101 things you have to do later. Do not be afraid to get caught up in the overwhelming majesty of God.
Saturday night on the retreat we all laid on the picnic table and stood around looking at stars, watching shooting stars and just being in awe of the small amount of the universe that we could see. Then Sunday morning I woke up to a most simple but gorgeous sunrise. The sunrise was a reminder that though night sand darkness surrounds us, but instead that the sun does rise again. Just as the sun rose this morning the Son rises in all of our dark days, bringing us hope, peace, joy, and love. The sunrise this morning was a reminder of the Advent season. Just as we long for the dark and dreary days to end, we long for the coming of our Lord and Savior. Just as we light candles to remind us of Christ's light in the world around us, we see the sun brighten the sky and are reminded of the ever present Emmanuel, God with us.
This is a new week, a week where we are reminded of God's peace while still holding to the hope of the Christ child we are awaiting. How amazing is the promise we hold in Christ? The hope that says because of the birth we long to celebrate in just a few short weeks, we have eternal life with the God who created the universe, this galaxy, each star, each animal, and each of our lives. In the weeks to come, don't worry, don't forget to see God, don't forget to stop and listen. Christ came, Christ lives, Christ is coming again, thanks be to God!!