Playing Kiss-Chase with God
Sermon for Advent Sunday – 1st December 2019
St Mary, Walton
Text: Matthew 24v36-44
Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming (Matthew 24v42)
God give you peace, my sisters and brothers.
…. 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100! Coming, ready or not!’
Remember the playground games we used to play?
When did you last play Hide and Seek?
Remember the excitement of a young child being chased by daddy. Running to hide, desperate to be found, anxious for affection.
And, once found collapsing into your arms giggling until the breath has been tickled out of them. Then, saying ‘Stop Daddy, let’s do that again’ and they run off to hide hoping that it won’t be too long before being found again. And, as they toddle off to hide, they shout ‘whatever you do don’t look for me behind the oak tree’ …or the shed, or the fridge or whichever is the most obvious place to hide.
You would think they wanted to be found and are setting out to lose the game. Mind you are there any losers when everyone ends up laughing and in each other’s arms?
Fast Forward a decade and the giggles are replaced by the fear felt by a young boy boarding at The Royal Hospital School when a game of British Bulldog is called, not on the soft grass of the playing field but on the hard tarmac of the Muster Yard. It always seemed to end with someone in the Infirmary.
Not much laughter there, just the desperate need to belong without getting hurt too much. Hoping that the Bulldogs – who were always the biggest bullies and out to get everyone – would be gentle with you and someone else would come off worse.
And then, then there were the lazy summer holidays spent at Gosport Lido playing Kiss-Chase in the nearby woods and the wonderful Valerie Rumble, who refused to try too hard to hide from me. Oh, to be fourteen again…
‘Coming, ready or not?’
The message of Advent is not so much a game of British Bulldog in which ‘God is out to get you’ – one will be taken, and another left behind.
Advent is the questing of a parent joyfully seeking out their child and Love longing for the object of its affection – keep awake… your Lord is coming – laughter and love are just around the corner.
God is not out to ‘get us’ – a lesson I still need to learn every time I sink into sin and choose to hide from the One who Loves me Best. No, God wants to find us and bring us home.
God’s very first words to the man and woman in the Garden were ‘Where are you?’ And God’s loving game of Hide and Seek remains the same. But do we welcome God’s voice with childish glee, with the leaping of a lover’s heart, or do we hide in fear that we might be found out?
When we were little we had no problem with being searched for and found. In fact, the worst thing that can happen to a toddler is to not be found and so find themselves all alone.
As we grow older and, allegedly, more mature it is not so much that we don’t want to be found, but we don’t want to be found out.
So even though, as the song reminds us ‘Love is all around us’, we hide ourselves away from the love that comes to find us, the love that comes to embrace us, the love that comes, wonderfully, to even love the unlovely within us.
Is Advent about God being ‘out to get us’ or is it about love coming to find us?
Speaking for myself I know that too often I have hidden from the song of God’s love and so the words, ‘Coming, ready or not’ have sounded like a death knell instead of a call to laughter and my life has been flooded with foreboding instead of overflowing with joy and an unbridled love.
But how can this Advent God, who comes as a helpless babe in Bethlehem, ever be ‘out to get us’?
Christmas is the most intimate of love songs as flesh touches flesh and the babe reaches out a tiny hand, holds on to our finger, and captures our hearts. There really should be mistletoe at the entrance to the manger.
Advent is when we learn to fall in love with Love.
Advent is when we learn to no longer hide from the God who comes to us ‘ready or not’.
Advent is when we learn to allow God to ‘catch’ us.
Advent is when we learn to allow God to touch us and embrace us.
Advent is when we play Kiss-Chase with God.
Advent is when we try hard to be easily caught so that we can be perfectly loved.
But still, for many of us, and for me, Advent easily becomes a time of fear and foreboding, a time of worrying that we have messed up and won’t be allowed into heaven.
For years now, each time I slip back into thinking that God is ‘out to get me’ one of John Donne’s Holy Sonnets has helped me to learn love’s lesson that, instead of being ‘out to get me’ God is out to love me, find me, cherish me, and bring me home.
At Advent, at Christmas, and every day, when the One Who Loves us Best says ‘Coming, ready or not,’ this poem has helped me breathe out the words, ‘Maranatha, even so come quickly Lord’.
I hope it will help you this Advent as each of us learns to play Kiss-Chase with God.
Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labour to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lovèd fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
P.S. If you happen to know Valerie Rumble who used to live in Elson, Gosport in the late 60’s/early 70’s please give her my love.
[This blog ‘Playing Kiss-Chase with God’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2019 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]