When I was doing my undergraduate work at Pacific Lutheran University, I got to take a class on Judaism taught by Rabbi Glickman. In one of the lectures, Rabbi Glickman recounted an interfaith conversation where a local pastor asked him, “Do you really think God cares if you have cheese on your burger?” The Rabbi’s thoughts were that dietary laws aren’t about God being offended by what we eat but rather are a way of reminding God’s people that God is present in every moment of life. Even (perhaps especially) in the most ordinary, most human parts of our existence.
Many of us haven’t experienced keeping kosher. Still, you probably have gone on a diet at some point. Diets have a way of making us watchful. We go from not noticing what, when and how much we eat to being very aware of everything surrounding our interactions with food. We become watchful. We become present to our lives in a new way.
There are many ways we fail to be present in our lives. Think of those times when you arrive home but can’t remember the last 20 minutes of the drive. Or when you’re reading and suddenly realize that you don’t remember any of the information on the last 3 pages. Maybe you realize you’ve missed part of a conversation or a movie by being distracted on your phone.
In the midst of all this commotion, the call of advent is to keep watch. God is on the move! Yet, in the disruption of 2020, when life is overwhelming and filled with distraction, how do we keep watch? What we can learn from Rabbi Glickman is that sometimes tying our faith to simple, daily practices can keep us awake to God’s presence.
So here is the challenge for you: find a way to be watchful.
Maybe you find a Psalm about hills (like Psalm 121) and recite it the first time you see the foothills each morning. You could recite the promises of your baptism when you wash your hands. Maybe you order your burger without the cheese. Whatever practice you choose, use it as a moment to cue yourself to recognize that God is actively present. God is with you in the midst of your day. God is with us in the midst of the pandemic. God is with us in our humanity and in the everyday moments of life. Thanks be to God.
Give us eyes to see your hand at work…
In the stranger
In the enemy
In the friend
In our lives
Give us ears to hear you…
In the cries of those who grieve
In the groans of the oppressed
In the laughter of children
In the songs of the faithful
Open our hearts to receive you…
When you come in unexpected ways
In the manger
On the cross
At the table.