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2035 Charlton Road
Sunfish Lake, MN 55118


God Calls us to be Christ's loving arms in the world spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ through our worship, education, outreach, and ministry. Whoever you are, wherever you are on your faith journey, Saint Anne's welcomes you. 


Advent I - Fr. Theo Park, December 3, 2017

Carolyn Swiszcz

I’m going to follow that excellent pageant with a quote—

from a somewhat unexpected source, but that’s par for today, right?

It’s from a book you may have read to some young person in your life, 

or that you may remember from your own childhood.  

The book is by Dr. Seuss, and the title is 

One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.  


The quote is brief:


From there to here,
from here to there,
funny things
are everywhere.

From there to here,
from here to there,
funny things
are everywhere.


Funny things are everywhere!  

And there are two things funny about this First Sunday of Advent, 

the start of a new church year.  

The first is that here at the start of a new cycle 

in our annual retelling of our encounter with God, 

we don’t look back to the beginning of events: rather, we look forward to the end.  

Here on the first day of the new church year, 

we do not focus on the past: we anticipate the future where Christ promises to meet us.


The second thing funny about today is related to the first.  

When we look forward to the end, when we anticipate the future, 

we do not treat this conclusion as some distant, far-off event.  

As our cast has just shown us, it is near at hand. It may be as close as the next second.  

So imminent is it, in fact, that the future comes and takes up residence in the present.  The Christ who will arrive with power and great glory at the end of time 

comes to us also before the end of time.

He does not wait until the end of the world, 

or even until our death, in order to approach us.  

He is always appearing; he is the lord of a million disguises.


Case in point: Many years ago, the Associated Press reported a miracle.  

In Bethlehem, at the Church of the Nativity 

(which is built on what legend holds to be the site of Christ’s birth), 

an icon of Christ was seen to wink at the worshipers gathered there.  


Did this really happen?  



We can’t be sure, but if it really did, 

then one onlooker truly understood the significance of the event.  

Nadia Banoura is quoted in the news report as saying of the icon of Christ, 

“He moved his eyelid up and down several times.  

This is a message from God that he is everywhere.”


Gender references aside, Nadia has it right, I think. God is everywhere.  

An old icon in a famous church may or may not wink at worshipers, 

but the living Christ winks at us all the time.

As Jesus says in the gospel of Thomas,

“I am the light that shines over all things. I am everything. 

From me all came forth, and to me all return. 

Split a piece of wood, and I am there. 

Lift a stone, and you will find me there.”

Too often, however, our souls are asleep and we fail to get the joke.


What is it that so dulls our sight that we do not notice the face of Christ looking at us, winking at us, asking for some response as we encounter him? 

What is it that drags us down? I know, I know: our current political mishigoss.

But more generally?  

I think it is that we take the small things too seriously, 

and we ignore what’s important.  

We see the tinsel, but overlook the tree.  

Small preoccupations—hurts and desires and failings and achievements—

loom large for us, far too large, and crowd out the glory of a greater world.


What is it then that lifts us up, that enables us to notice the wink and laugh with joy? Simply this: the expectation of Christ present and active,

the essence of God in the midst of everything.


Now I’ll tell you another funny thing, a fun fact, this time about our church calendar: 

and that is how often the name “Gregory” appears.  

No name on the calendar appears more frequently among the lesser feasts.  

There are four Gregories we commemorate annually: 

Gregory the Great, 6th Century Bishop of Rome; 

Gregory the Illuminator, who brought the Gospel to the Armenia in the 4th Century; 

and two additional 4th Century Gregories who were bishops, friends, 

and eminent theologians—Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa.


Why all these Gregories? I think it’s because there’s divine humor here.  

The name “Gregory” means “watchful, vigilant.”  

Perhaps these Gregories stand as a reminder that we are to be watchful, 

alert to Christ winking at us through the circumstances of life.  

The spiritual discipline to which we are called is to set aside our small preoccupations 

and recognize what’s really important.  

We are to allow ourselves to be lifted up by the expectation of Christ present and active.


This year, I propose that each of us take “Gregory” as an Advent name.  

Whether we are man or woman, boy or girl, 

let’s add this name to our own in the depths of our hearts 

for the period between now and Christmas, 

and let it remind us to be vigilant and watchful.  

And so we will have “Theo Gregory” and “Lucie Gregory” 

and “Leigh Gregory” and “Katie Gregory”—and so forth.


If we do this, then the tinsel will not ensnare us and keep us from seeing the tree.  

Then we will look past our small preoccupations—

the hurts and desires and failings and achievements—

and see instead our source of life: the Christ who winks with joy and lifts us up.


And there’s one thing more: 

when we recognize Christ in the course of every day, 

then he will be no stranger to our eyes.  

When he comes again at the end of time, we will be fit to meet him.  

Without fear or shame or unfamiliarity, we will rejoice to behold his appearance.


From there to here,
from here to there,
the Holy One
is everywhere.

From there to here,
from here to there,
the Holy One
is everywhere.















Adapted with deep gratitude from a sermon written for this occasion by The Rev. Charles Hoffacker and posted on Worship That Works.