God of the 2am pacing, God of the healers racing,
God of the moments of fear and frustration, God of the current situation...
hear our cries of, "will this never end?!";
hear our shouts of, "another pivot... what, again?!"
hear us and help us -- please!
Help us to be compassionate with ourselves and with one another
(even that person who believes this is all a conspiracy...).
Help us to celebrate Jesus' birth,
by doing all we can to help our communities live life, and life in abundance.
Help us to support all whose work is care of body, mind, and spirit,
All who are exhausted from trying to "pivot"
till their lives resemble a whirlwind's chaos.
Replenish our well of compassion and care when we are feeling bone dry.
Help us to look into the eyes of the cashier, the delivery person,
the next door neighbour, the friend, the stranger,
and offer them words and actions that communicate that they are beloved...
Remind us, O God, that we are beloved, too.
You are the Sacred Spirit Divine. You are the one who Rescues.
You are God With Us. In this time, and in all others. Amen.
(Advent 2021: Rt Rev Richard Bott, adapted)
I don't know how old our Moderator, the Rt Rev. Richard Bott is. I'd have guessed that at most he was maybe a few years older than I am – maybe late fifties rather than mid-fifties.
But if that's so, I really must bless him for his gentleness and his purity of heart.
Because I don't know ANYONE ELSE who's roughly my age who could have spent an entire week as he has, reflecting upon the wearying presenting need for all of us – again, and yes again – to PIVOT in response to this latest outbreak –
without betraying either by his voice or by a cheeky twinkle in his eye that what he really wants to do is bark out the word PIVOT... like Ross from Friends.
Like we're all collectively hauling this whole business like a back-breaking sofa up a tiny twisty set of stairs and that's the only way it's going to happen. Either we PIVOT or now the sofa lives on the stairs and nobody's going anywhere.
But maybe the Moderator's right, with his gentleness and purity of heart. After all, despite Ross from Friends barking out that word PIVOT – and he even had a sketch – that sofa still got stuck.
And what the Moderator has instead, along with his gentleness and purity of heart, is the Christmas narratives of the gospels. Which frankly, when it comes to how to pivot? Are way better than a sketch. They're a map and a path and a promise and a guide.
They're just one pivot after another. By everyone.
Because NOTHING unfolds in the Christmas story the way it's "supposed to". Literally nothing. Literally the entire process by which God enters into the world to embrace and hold and heal and fill our human life is just one broken set of hopes and expectations and plans after another. Every ONE of them crashing into the calmness and requiring a pivot or else things get stuck.
But pivot after pivot after pivot, it all happens. Not easily – there's some pushback, there's certainly a great deal of courage involved, and not a few deep breaths, and some well-placed angelic intervention – but one pivot at a time, it all happens.
Mary lays down her expectations for the quiet peaceful life she thought she'd have, and she pivots – into a service and a leadership that engages her mind and even her body in ways that are thrilling but they're also frightening.
Joseph too, he'd made plans. And they very much did NOT involve feeling hurt, feeling humiliated, and a broken engagement he has to go through with, but he pivots.
And when they finally arrive in Bethlehem and the time comes for Mary to have the child, it is very much NOT okay that there's no room in the inn – but they pivot.
And the wise men from the East? When the king they seek isn't in a palace, they pivot. When his life's in danger from the king who IS in the palace, they pivot again. And when that danger makes it impossible for Joseph and Mary to return home to Nazareth as they'd assumed, they pivot again too, escaping to Egypt with the infant Jesus where they'll stay until the danger is past.
It really IS just one pivot after another. Almost to the point of being silly.
Until it isn't silly at all when we're SO TIRED of pivoting and we just need to know it's survivable.
But let's not romanticize this. Because yes, there's courage that gets found. And yes, there are deep breaths and changes of plans. And yes, there are new insights into what this birth is really about and who God really is and what really matters at Christmas, and how that light shines and can't be extinguished.
But let's not romanticize this. Because there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem and the time came for her to bear her child and there was no room in the inn – that Mary broke down in tears.
That she'd had it. That it was one pivot too many and she just fell apart.
I know she did. She absolutely did. Weary, exhausted, enough, and sobbing. SO tired of pivoting and not at all convinced it was survivable.
But it was. Because when it comes to how to pivot, the Christmas story? It's a map and a path and a guide, but more than anything it's a promise. That she could. That she wasn't alone and she could. And she did.
It's a promise. That we can and we don't do it alone and we will.
We'll pivot, again. And Christmas will find us. Amen.