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Now Is What You've Got
December 31, 1978

St. Paul's United Methodist Church


I preach with my hands in my pocket, but I know I can't talk without my hands. Doubly worse today because John and Marilyn went home for Christmas. That’s alright except home is Hawaii! Another guy was traveling. He had to take a detour, and got hopelessly lost out in the backwoods. He stopped at a farmhouse where an old farmer was sitting, rocking on the porch just enjoying life. The traveler asked, “What time is it?” The farmer said, “It's 12 o’clock." The traveler said, “I thought it was more than that.” The farmer said, “Nope, round here it never gets more than that. It gets up to 12 and then it starts all over again.” 

Tonight, old 1978 will go up to 12 and start all over again. It’s a time when we assess what's happened, and we look ahead with anticipation to the New Year. Some tonight will celebrate the event in inebriated abandonment. Some will make a lot of noise to ward off the evil spirits. Some will greet the new year in prayer and song, some in family circles, and some will just go to bed. But the new year comes. This is a good time to remember and to take note of our text today, from Paul's letter to the Corinthians where he said, “Behold, now is the acceptable time. Behold, now is the day of salvation.” Now is what you've got. It's difficult to live in the now. We had four weeks in which we prepare for Christmas— all that purchasing, wrapping and cooking, all the mystery in putting presents under a tree. We hear the music and we get excited about Christmas. Then Christmas day comes and bang, it’s over and down come the decorations. 

In the Christian calendar, we have 12 days of Christmas—12 days from December 25 to January 6. We're in Christmastide now. But 12 days of celebration is too much for a lot of people. They don't know what to do with it. For too many that long anticipated event for which they planned, when it comes is a letdown. There are some people who sit in the midst of open packages and a full stomach and feel depressed, feel let down. They wished they got something else, or is this all there is? Many people plan for their marriage. 1, 2, 3 years go by and it’s a let down. That anticipated event is a letdown. Or, some are eager about a new job and then realize it's not so hot as they thought it was going to be. Or, some  plan for college. They go through all the exercises of picking out what what one is going to do with their career. Then it happens and it's a letdown of disillusionment, of depression. 

It's difficult and rare to be totally present in the here and now, to enjoy and live to the fullest here now. How many times have you really had a conversation with someone when you felt that person was really totally present, when their mind was not wandering somewhere, was not thinking of something else, wasn't thinking of what they were going to say next, but were totally present and really listening to you so that you could go beneath the shallow, superficial level, down into a very meaningful, intimate experience? How rare it is to find a relationship in which one can be totally alive and present. 

It's difficult to live in the now. Perhaps one of the reasons it's difficult is because we have not really dealt with yesterday and tomorrow. Take yesterday. Memories are beautiful. We live out of history. A meaningful part of the present are the memories we bring. But a person who lives totally in memory is called senile. We provide care for them. A person who lives totally in the past, or much of the time in memory, either we give them our pity, or we humor them, hardly a vital human, dynamic relationship. What do we do with yesterday so that we can live in the now? One of the best things to do with yesterday is to offer it to God. Look at yesterday through God. For all the happy memories, give thanks to God for them. For all the unhappy memories, all the errors, all the faults, all the mistakes, all the hurt, all the failures and all the sins, confess them to God and let God forgive us, so the past doesn't come and strangle the present, so that the guilt we bring from the past doesn't interfere with the present, so all the hang ups from yesterday don't interfere with the present, give them to God. Live today with yesterday in the hands of God, either in gratitude or in confession, and receive God's grace, God's amazing grace. The past is over. It's done with. All that was wrong is forgiven. We can live in the present. That's what to do with yesterday. 

And the same with the future, with tomorrow. Give it to God. We live by our dreams, we live by our hopes, we live by expecting, but how sad when a person cannot really enjoy this Christmas because they're planning the next one already. Or, they really can't live in 1979 because of all the plans they're making for 1980. Some people live in fantasy. Oh, what it would be like if I only were married to someone else. Or, what it would be like if I only had another job. Or, if I only could live somewhere else. If only I could live out of the fog, wouldn’t it be beautiful! Or, if I only hadn't done such and such. Or, if I hadn't said that. Fantasy! Now is what we've got. We don't have yesterday. It’s gone. It can never be redone. It can never be changed. It's gone. 

And tomorrow is not here. To fantasize and to live in dreams about tomorrow is to miss the now for the now is what we've got. One of the best ways to deal with tomorrow is to give it to God, leave it in God's hands and pray, “God, your will be done.” Jesus said to do that with worries. Don't worry about tomorrow. He said (Matthew 6:34), “Do not be anxious about tomorrow. For tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” Live today and let tomorrow God's will be done. Embrace the now, leaving yesterday in God's hands and committing tomorrow to God's hands. Embrace the now right now. Live it. 

Harold Rogers in his book On the Other Side of Tomorrow says, “Every day is a gift from God. Welcome it joyously. Clasp it to you. Spend it wisely. Waste none of it in idleness. Save some for contemplation. And when evening comes, thank God for his gift, the day you have just lived.” I like that except the idleness part. In this pressurized hectic day, there's nothing wrong with being idle every now and then without feeling guilty about it. There’s nothing wrong with just being plain lazy for that’s living too. 

Every day is a gift from God. Take it, embrace it and embrace yourself. Hug yourself and hug your life. It’s a beautiful life, and you are a beautiful person. If there's something in you that's ugly, that you don't like, repent of it and change it. Give it to God and be forgiven. Embrace you for you are a dear sweet old thing. Hug yourself, embrace your life, even that which is painful, even that which hurts, even the sorrows, embrace them. Don't deny them. Don't try to escape from them, embrace them for it is pain, sorrow, and problems that deepen our joy and prevents joy from just being superfluous. Bringing joy down into the depths takes pain and hurting. So even embrace that, for now is what you've got. And it's good. God made it and God gave it to you. 

Don't put off till tomorrow for tomorrow may never come. Do it today. Try an exercise. Imagine that the doctor tells you you've only got five months or weeks or five days. Imagine that in five days, you won't be here anymore. How would you live those five days? How would you live them? Would you like to take a walk along the ocean? Do it. Are there some changes you need to make? Do the jobs around the house that you would really like to have done? Do them. Are there some people you need to tell that you love them? Do it. Are there some people you need ask forgiveness from? Do it. Embrace and live now. 

A young lady by the name of Anonymous, wrote this poem called “Things You Didn't Do”. 

Remember the day I borrowed your brand new car and dented it. I thought you'd kill me. But you didn't. 

Remember the time I dragged you to the beach and you said it would rain and it did. I thought you'd say I told you so. But you didn’t. 

Remember the time I flirted with all the guys to make you jealous. And you were. I thought you'd leave me. But you didn’t., 

Remember the time I spilled strawberry pie all over the rug of your car. I thought you'd hit me. But you didn't. 

And remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance was formal and you showed up in jeans. I thought you'd drop me. But you didn't. 

Yes, there were lots of things you didn't do. But, you put up with me and you loved me and you protected me. And there were lots of things I wanted to make up to you when you returned from Vietnam. But you didn't. 

Now is what you've got.

© 1978 Douglas I. Norris