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between Atlantic and Beach
Beach Haven, New Jersey 08008
Perhaps you're a visitor on Long Beach Island. Maybe you haven't been in Church for a while and would like to start back. Whatever is going on in your life, you are welcome at Holy Innocents. Your past affiliations don't mean nearly as much to us as your present affiliation with us.
“Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.”...Richard Hooker
Hooker’s observation is so self-evident it sounds trite. We dismiss it without fully examining its import. We do this because we give the quick intellectual assent of avoidance. Not wanting to be inconvenienced by change, we acknowledge that the maxim is so, and move on, passively avoiding and passive-aggressively resisting change. We express our true preference, which is always to be the source and agent of change while never being changed ourselves.
Our tradition informs us that change is inevitable. The preface to the 1549 edition of The Book of Common Prayer makes plain, for example, that our modes of worship will change, that change is expected, and that it is desirable. Continuing the example a bit further, we have seen the agitated annoyance, consternation, conflict and self-cultivated ignorance caused by revisions of The Book of
Common Prayer since 1549.
The truth is that we do not like or seek change. The human condition finds a level of comfort with circumstances and conditions of life, and then, maintains those conditions as a matter of “enlightened self-interest” (please read selfishness and fear). We strive for “security” when what we mean is “status quo.”
There is a particular virulence to this human strain among Church people. We do not like the changes the Incarnation brings. Jesus’ birth is a living example of Hooker’s utterance, and an enfleshed example of the Apocrypha where it says, “…he is inconvenient to us.” Despite our longings for prophecy’s fulfillment, when The Messiah finally comes, He is never quite what we want. When He appears, He asks something of us. Living in a world that we experience as beyond our control in many areas, we do not want to be asked to change those areas over which we do have some control (relationships, money, religious practice, appropriate physical self-care, you name it).
As Christmas comes, we are confronted with the inconvenience of The Christ as well as with manageable-sweet-little-Jesus-boy-in-a manger. A good preparation during Advent is an examination that sorts out where you are resisting inevitable change in your life, and why. Knowing when resistance to change is Godly, and when it is foolish, is the discernment of a wise heart….and oh so hard that discernment can be!
The quiet expectation…the meditative, reflective moment …the unrushed prayer of Advent gives an opening for this discernment. It teaches something: it teaches that being changed in heart and soul and spirit by The Christ may seem inconvenient, but the alternative is sheer agony- the sheer agony of the Cross, where the unchanged ungodly resistance of humanity to God is changed in the death of the baby whose birth we expect. Our inconvenience at Christmas makes Good Friday necessary. Hmmmmmm. Might there be a better way to respond to the changes our faith invites in us?
He is coming. Be ready.
Love you. See you in Church.