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Nagging Questions

I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me (Luke 1:38) Fourth Sunday of Advent

A man who was experiencing a variety of emotional problems went to see a psychiatrist about the nagging questions that were plaguing his life: why was he unable to find himself; what was his life was all about? “I want to know who I am and what is the meaning of my life,” he demanded. After listening to the patient, the psychiatrist scribbled a prescription.

“Don’t come back until you have used it up,” she said. When the pharmacist read the prescription, she said to the man, “I can’t fill this, but you can!”

The prescription read, “Spend one hour every Sunday for the next four weeks watching the sunrise while walking in a cemetery.” He did it and then answered his own question.

There is a Peanuts cartoon in which Little Lucy asks, "You know what your trouble is Charlie Brown?" Then, as she often does, Lucy answers her own question: "The whole trouble with you is you don’t understand the meaning of life!" Whereupon Charlie Brown looks straight at Lucy and asks, "Do YOU understand the meaning of life?" To which Lucy answers, "We’re not talking about me, we’re talking about you Charlie Brown!"

I just a few short days, how will we make this Christmas, a fruitful one? Allow me to answer my own questions as we turn to today's Gospel Reading from the first chapter of Luke. There we discover the attitude of the who can answer our questions about the meaning of life. The person whose first Christmas remains the most fruitful Christmas of all time: Mary, the mother of Jesus.

According to the New Testament, Mary is a gracious, strong, sensitive woman. This peasant girl, probably a teen-ager, from the little village of Nazareth way off in the back country, suddenly hears the startling announcement that she has found special favor with God and that she is to become a mother in a very special way. Can you imagine what this was like for this young woman? And the first thing she did was to ask a question which she herself could not answer: "How can this come about?" [...]

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Stories you can use...

We've got a million of them (well, almost).

Love, Empathy, Marriage

“...the Kingdom of Heaven is like treasures hidden in a field which someone has found” (Matthew 13:44). In the lore of a tribe in West Africa, there is a story called “The Legend of the Sky Maiden.” The story begins when members of the tribe are facing a milk shortage. Their cows are not producing like they used to. A young man volunteers to watch over the cows at night in search of a clue to what might be happening. He hides himself behind some bushes and waits. Finally, he sees something extraordinary ... A young woman of astonishing beauty rides a moonbeam down from heaven to earth carrying a large pail. She milks the cows, fills her pail, and climbs back up the moonbeam to the sky. The young man cannot believe his eyes. He must learn more about this mysterious maiden who comes down from the sky. So he sets a trap near the cow barn and the next night, when the maiden comes down to milk the cows, he captures her. “Who are you?” he asks. “I am a sky maiden,” she replies. “I live with my tribe up in the sky, where we have no food of our own. It is the duty of us sky maidens to come down to earth at night to find food. But, please sir, release me from this net and I will do anything you ask.” The young man replies, “I will release you if you promise to marry me.” “I will marry you,” the maiden says, “but first you must allow me to return home to prepare myself.” The young man agrees. When the sky maiden returns, she is carrying a large box. “Take this and keep it for me,” she says to the young man. “Then I will marry you and be a good wife. But you must promise never to look inside the box.” They live happily together for a time. Then, one day, when his wife is not at home, the young man opens the box and looks inside. The box is empty. When the wife returns, seeing that her husband has opened the box, she says, “Because you looked inside the box I cannot remain with you any longer. I must leave.” “Why?” her husband asks. “What is so terrible about looking into an empty box?” She answers: “I’m not leaving you because you opened the box. I thought you would. I’m leaving you because you said it is empty. It isn’t empty. It contains the light and air and smells of my home in the sky. When I went home I filled that box with everything that is most precious to me. How can I be your wife if what is most precious to me is emptiness to you?” Kushner, H., “Who Needs God,” Summit Books, 1989 (Adapted).

Kindness, Children, Compassion

“When the Lord saw her, He felt sorry for her, ‘Do not cry,’ He said” (Luke 7:13). Charles Lindbergh’s father-in-law, Dwight Morrow, was a friend and admirer of Calvin Coolidge. He told a group of friends that Coolidge had real presidential possibilities. But they disagreed, saying that he lacked color and political personality. Someone summed up the group’s feeling, saying, “The people just wouldn’t like him.” Hearing this, Morrow’s little six-year-old daughter, Anne, made her presence known. She showed her father ’s friends her finger with a little bandage taped around it. “He was the only one who asked me about my sore finger,” she said.

Preaching, Sermon, Shyness

“…they will not hear Him unless they get a preacher” (Romans 10:14). In a small monastery there was a monk who was extremely shy. He lived in terror of the day when the Abbot would say to him, “Tomorrow you preach in Chapel.” Sure enough, the day came when the Abbot scheduled him to preach. The monk mounted the pulpit and said, “Do you know what I’m about to say?” The assembled monks shook their heads from side to side. “No.” Whereupon, the shy monk announced, “Neither do I. The service is ended. Go in peace.” The disappointed Abbot rescheduled the monk to preach the next morning. Again he stepped into the pulpit and asked, “Do you know what I’m going to say?” To encourage him, all the monks nodded, “Yes.” Whereupon, the shy monk said, “Well, if you all know what I’m going to say, there’s no reason for me to say it. The service is ended. Go in peace.” The angry Abbot scolded the shy monk, saying, “Tomorrow is your last chance!” The next morning the monk looked down from the pulpit and asked, “Do you know what I’m about to say?” Some of the monks shook their heads “Yes” and some shook their heads “No.” They thought they had the shy monk cornered. But he said, “Well then, will those of you who know what I am about to say kindly tell those who don’t know. The service is ended. Go in peace.”

Communication, Confusion, Technology

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). A Navy ordinance officer who is able to explain in great detail what makes guided missiles tick, had just finished a lecture on the subject. A woman from the audience congratulated him on his brilliant presentation, saying, “Before hearing the lecture I was thoroughly confused about how these missiles work.” “And now?” the officer asked. “Thanks to you,” the woman replied, “I’m still just as confused, but on a much deeper level.”