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Look …
December 11, 2022

First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto


“Get Ready for Christmas” is our Advent theme. Don’t be so busy getting ready for Christmas that you miss Christmas! Have you been starting your day with “This is the day the Lord has made. I will be glad and rejoice in it?” And, reading a chapter from Mark? My sermons have encouraged you to Wake up!, Magnify the Lord and today, Look…

Have you noticed that men have difficulty looking? The other day I asked where a particular knife was. Ellie said,”It’s in the drawer.” I looked and looked and announced, “It’s not here.” She calmly walked over, put her hand in the drawer and pulled out the knife. Too often I can’t find items in the refrigerator or in cupboards. Why? Our son, Jack, told us why. Our ancient women ancestors were gatherers and men were hunters. The women searched and picked berries and nuts. The men hunted moving objects. Therefore, I could easily have seen the knife in the drawer if it had been moving!

When my cousin, Joanne, was about eight years-old, it was discovered that she needed glasses. After being fitted, all the way home, she exclaimed, “Look at that! I’ve never seen that before! Look at that, look at that.” A whole, new world opened up to her. What a gift it is to be able to see! 

I found it Interesting in my reading of Mark on Tuesday in chapter 8, Jesus put spit on a blind man’s eyes, laid his hands on him and asked him, “Do you see anything?” The man replied, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Sometimes it is difficult for us to see clearly. 

Get spiritually ready for Christmas by sharpening your eyesight, be alert. Look!

What do we look for? Paul gave us a beautiful list in the passage we just heard.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. As for the things that you have learned and received and heard and noticed in me, do them, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Where are we most apt to see them? In other people. But some people get in the way. Does it seem to you that rudeness is on the rise? With stores finding it difficult to hire workers, they are short-handed and too many customers are impatient and rude. 

Some churches have difficult people. A colleague once told his congregation that evidently there was an invisible box at the entrance into the church grounds where members took out their brains and put them in the invisible box before proceeding to a committee meeting. He was not too popular!

In one of our neighboring churches in Minnesota, worshipers arrived on a Sunday morning and were surprised to see a casket up front. The pastor proceeded to conduct a funeral service without naming the deceased. It was the custom at that time for the congregation to file past the casket and pay their final respects. But, on this occasion, when they filed past the casket, they looked in the casket and saw a mirror. The pastor was telling them, they were a dead church. And, yes, he was soon transferred!

I did not go to such extremes with difficult church people. I discovered that when I looked behind the anger, the surety that they were right, behind the obstruction, I realized their behavior was not necessary directed at me or what was going on, but trouble they were having at work, or a marital fight. Those who felt inadequate at work or at home, could compensate at church where they could be important.

In other words, get spiritually ready for Christmas by looking at other people in a new way. When I am tempted to be rude to the telemarketers, I stop and reflect how he/she is doing their best to put food on the table, pay the rent, care for their children. 

Take a breath. Slow down and appreciate the people and the interactions around you. Take a moment to look at the sorrow on a woman's face, or the pain in a man's eyes. Look with compassion. What might your tiny interaction mean to them? Often we wait for the next big event to happen, the next destination, unaware of the moments being created around us. Think about the people you pass, brush shoulders with. Think about the way you interact with people.

These interactions are small moments --  tiny, seemingly insignificant.  They have no weight to them, no purpose, no real meaning, yet they have significant power. These small moments all add up, creating opportunities and experiences that are missed or abused by the hurried and impatient. Take time to look.

Paul told the Philippians to look for whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable. 

In our Sermon Scripture Study, Pam reminded us of how the George Floyd shooting launched a pursuit for what is just, especially by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Pastor G watched his son David, age 6, interrupt his playtime on the school playground when he saw a girl fall. David yelled for help until the girl’s mother came. Pastor G saw his son’s behavior as commendable and admirable.

Mike commended two union leaders who helped reorganize their worksites even though they would personally take a hit. They were more concerned about the workers they represented than themselves. They did what was right.

Our Sermon Scripture Study met on Wednesday, December 7, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. Ellie remembered her uncles who immediately left their work, left their families and the next day volunteered to fight for our country, doing what is honorable, right and just.

Pam commended the Care Team of our congregation who reach out to the homebound and those in care facilities. Soon cookies will be delivered to them doing what is pure, what is lovely and commendable.

Look at people differently and look at Jesus. Where do we see Jesus? We see Jesus in other people and we see Jesus where he is at work.

Jesus was twelve-years-old when his parents couldn’t find him. They had gone to Jerusalem to the temple for the Festival of the Passover and were on their way home to Nazareth when they realized Jesus was missing. Imagine what they must have felt. What if they lost him, never to find him again? What if something had happened to him? What if he was out in the desert? What if someone had taken him, someone had hurt him? Their worries must have been endless. They quickly returned to Jerusalem where they found Jesus in the temple. He told them he was “going about his father’s business.” Look today where Jesus is “going about his father’s business.”

Look for Jesus where he is at work and join him. Jesus said, “Feed the hungry, give something to drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned. Make disciples.” And, support the Joy of Giving projects, Jesus at work.

Get spiritually ready for Christmas. Look. Look at people differently. Look for what is true, pure, honorable, right, just. Look for Jesus at work.

© 2022 Douglas I. Norris