A World to be Inhabited

Sermon for Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Wednesday in the Third Week of Advent
Isaiah 45:5-8, 18-25

He did not create it a chaos; he formed it to be inhabited. – Isaiah 45:18c

Cloud formation in the shape of a map of the world, over a green fieldPerhaps it’s because of the recent climate conference in Paris, or perhaps it’s because temperatures in Boston have been 20 and 30 degrees warmer than usual for this time of year, but when I hear this evening’s reading from Isaiah 45, I can’t help but think of global warming.  God created this word “to be inhabited,” says Isaiah, “He did not create it a chaos.”  Or, as another translation (the New American Bible) puts it:  God did not create this world to be a waste, but designed it to be lived in.  This world is our home, designed by God for us to live in; it is not for us to make it a chaos or a waste.

But, we know only too well from news reports and from first-hand experience that our world is rapidly turning into a waste.  As Pope Francis writes in his latest encyclical:  “The earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.”  As I think about Advent and preparing a place for the infant Jesus, I am brought to mind of parents when they know a baby is arriving:  they do all they can do to prepare a healthy environment.  They’ll clean out a room, find a crib, get a stash of linens and blankets and diapers and wipes and bottles and pacifiers etc. to make sure they are ready to receive, nurture and raise up life.  Pope Francis’ encyclical questions the capacity of our world to receive and nurture new life, trapped as we are in lifestyles of consumption and a “throw-away culture.”

ttd_climate_thumb_ooWhen we think about climate change, we often think about recycling or bicycling more or becoming vegetarian.  But it seems to me that something bigger is at stake here.  I wonder if the root of all our climate change – like the root of all sin – is ultimately a refusal to accept that God loves us.  If we could truly recognize and accept that God loves us, we would not want to make a choice that would lead us further from God.  Climate change is not merely a tactical challenge, something that we could surmount if we but tried harder.  Climate change is ultimately a spiritual matter, something that can be countered only to the extent that our inner “climate” changes, only to the extent that we are able to recognize and receive God’s love for us.  For as we are able to truly encounter Christ and receive his love, it follows that we will also walk in his ways and live his life: a life aware of others, a life aware of the impact of our actions, a life that yearns to receive and prepare for and nurture the new life that God is always seeking to plant among us.  A faithful Christian life, then – to continue the Advent metaphor – is one that is able to prepare to receive and nurture and care for God’ entering our world as an infant, who depends on us, who looks to us, to help it live.

I hope, then, that this Advent we might ask – beg! – for the grace to open our hearts to receive Christ’s love for us.  For not only our lives individually, but the life of this world, depends on our ability to encounter Jesus, to receive his love, and to be willing to risk living as He did, a life that brought life and peace and health to our world.

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