Advent 1, 2016 CPR
How many of you have learned Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation? A few years ago I took a course sponsored by the Health Department. We started by watching two video presentations, and then two people demonstrated the technique. That was all the first night, and it was interesting in an abstract sort of way.
The second night they turned us loose on the dummies. These are life size figures that you breathe into for the mouth to mouth resuscitation – the breath of life. They lie there on the floor with a gauge to tell you how much air is getting in, and a pressure device for the closed chest cardiac massage if the heart has stopped beating. The instructor turns it on and out of the side of the dummy proceeds a tape that tells you exactly what you have done.
As long as it is theory – movies and paper handouts and being talked to and shown a demonstration, it is “interesting,” but when you get down there on the floor kneeling beside that blond haired dummy trying to do it, and discovering you didn’t do it just right the first time, you get involved.
Part of that is a desire not to be beaten by this dummy and this machine, and part of it is a beginning possibility that if you can do it right you might really be able to save a life, but when you are down on the floor with the dummy, you’re involved. When the instructor demonstrates again you watch with great care, and try again, and watch, and try, and finally succeed. I passed the course!
That course was a great lesson in theory and practice. The theory is easy, but it comes and goes. It is in the practice that we really learn, and we get involved. Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, “you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” Our annual celebration of Jesus’ birth is coming soon. Decorations are up; the charitable appeals are in the mail trying to beat the Christmas card rush.
Advent is a time of watching and waiting, waiting both for the annual celebration of Jesus’ birth as a babe in Bethlehem and also waiting for the time of our redemption and the fullness of the kingdom of God, the final judgment when “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” We say in the Creed that Christ “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” That’s theory, good theory, true theory.
I invite you to get up off the seat of theory, get down on the floor with the dummy and practice. Jesus said, “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” I offer three ways to practice walking in the light, three ways to “be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
First, practice being aware of Christ’s presence here and now. Many of us have committed our lives and wills to Jesus Christ at some time in the past. Some of us need to make that commitment again as we come forward to receive him again, receiving his body and blood in bread and wine. All churches offer an altar call in revival, some more often than others. Some of us may need to make that commitment for the first time. Welcome!
We are spiritually fed in the communion, and that communion continues. Practice communion. Practice thinking of Jesus sitting next to you when you are alone and when you are in company. Look for him in the eyes of everyone you meet. Short prayers of thanksgiving really help. “Lord Jesus, thank you for being with me here in this happy situation, in this difficult situation.”
Second, work on getting to know Jesus better. If you don’t regularly read the Bible, begin today. Resolve to read and think about some part of the Bible every day. There are lots of ways to do that. One is to start with a gospel and read and think about a chapter a day. You can read St. Mark in 2 weeks and 2 days, St. John in 3 weeks, St. Luke in 24 days, St. Matthew in 28 days, the Acts of the Apostles the same. Learn to know Jesus as he comes to you in his holy Word.
Third, practice being prepared. If you don’t have a will, make one; it is the best Christmas present you can give your heirs. Leave your work each day as complete as you can. If you need to forgive, or be forgiven, do it today and every day. Take some time each day to cultivate the fruits of Christ’s spirit in your life – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, kindness, self-control.
You all know the story of the young musician in New York who asked the older musician how to get to Carnegie Hall. The answer was, “Practice, practice, practice!”
Wait in joyful expectation for Christ’s coming to fully establish his kingdom. While you wait, practice kingdom living. Don’t just sit there listening to the theory of a sermon. Get down on the floor with the dummy, and practice, practice, practice! Amen.