“Too Much Turkey”
The college football season is moving toward its last games. The past week I saw a facebook post from my cousin in Ohio that simply said, “How about them Bucs!” Well, anytime I see such a message coming from Ohio I know it is not good news for a Michigan team. I checked the scores and sure enough, Ohio State 56, Michigan State 7. I did not watch the game.
Yesterday, though, the tables got turned. Ohio State played Michigan, and Michigan won 42-27.
However, I think I know why teams get beat sometimes during this time of the year, or don’t perform as well as they should. They lost focus and concentration. They ate too much turkey. When I was young after a big Thanksgiving meal often, we would turn on a football game, but half the time I either dosed off or didn’t really care about the game. It was just too much turkey.
The truth is that losing focus, getting distracted with the activities of life, and not being ready to meet a challenge at hand is an all too human response. I think we may often find ourselves doing the same thing at one time or another. Probably this is why we find the warning to be on guard and keep watch so often in the Bible. In more than a couple of places God seems to be telling us to pay attention to what is truly important. If you feast on too much turkey you may not be ready for the game.
In the gospel of Luke after warning about the impending second coming of the Son of Man in a cloud with power and glory, we are told to “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.” The time of Christ arrival can be read in the times, but to those who are not ready and attentive it will be a sudden and cataclysmic shock. Therefore, be on guard; watch and be ready.
We are told to avoid overwhelming the core of our lives (our hearts) with dissipation, drunkenness, and the worries of life. I want us to think about that a moment. What does it mean to overwhelm one’s heart with dissipation? What is dissipation? I looked the word up in the dictionary and I got this definition, “Dissolute indulgence in pleasure; intemperance.” The Greek word used here gives as one definition “a headache (as a seizure of pain) from drunkenness.” Basically, the Bible is warning against spending one’s time in overindulgence, drunkenness, and suffering from the effects of a hangover. This apparent image of a drunken hangover in connection with the image of the second coming of Christ may make you wonder. How did two such issues ever come to be connected in the scriptures?
It begins to make sense when we consider the likely historical context of this passage. Most scholars believe that the gospel was written after 70 AD, which was the date when the Roman legions under General Titus laid siege on Jerusalem, broke down her walls, killed many people and burnt and destroyed the temple. Jerusalem as you may know was the Jewish center of religion and government.
It was for this reason that Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the temple when many of the Jewish people revolted. By destroying what the Jewish people had centered their religion and life around, they demoralized the Jewish nation and destroyed their central point of unity. If you were Jewish, 70 AD was a very terrible year. They lost so much that gave life meaning.
How easy and likely it would have been for people to have been consumed by the anxieties, grief, and worries of life, or to have simply tried to deal with the destruction of war and loss by getting drunk and carousing about. The danger is in being a people who lose all hope and focus, and deal with life by trying to fill in the empty places with whatever matter is at hand. When we as a people lose focus on what is of primary importance is it not human nature to substitute something else? If you have turkey who needs football; if you have a strong drink who needs a city or a temple?
Therefore, the writer of Luke’s gospel dealt with the shaking of his people’s world by confronting the ways in which they were forsaking their focus on God and faithfulness by reminding them of Jesus prophecy, and the fact that God’s work is supreme. Perhaps your world has passed away. All of heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away,” Jesus said. The creative redemptive word of God that formed the world when it was made is eternal and shall never pass away. I think that here Luke is trying to re-center his readers on what is truly most important –the eternal and redemptive work of God found in Jesus Christ.
In effect he is saying to his readers be ready, stay focused, and never give up. Notice that the description of the end times in the Bible has nothing to do with human cause and effect. (We talked about this last week as well) In the end time, there will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars. There will be distress caused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. The powers of the heavens will be shaken. These powers mentioned in the Bible are powers beyond the control of human beings. The end comes not as a result of human activity and design, but as a result of God’s action in releasing the normal order of the universe.
This creates something of paradox meant to bring us hope. Since humans have not the ability to end the world, but God alone, then nothing on earth and no human circumstance will end life or counter God’s plan for life. The apostle makes it clear that God is in charge, and regardless of human circumstances God still calls us to faithful living day by day. There will be tomorrow, but if the end does come, we are told in that moment to raise our heads because it is then that our redemption is drawing near. If we really are seeing the end, it is then that we shall know the coming of God’s kingdom in its fullness. Either way it is God’s plan to sustain us. Either way we have hope.
Therefore, don’t eat too much turkey; stay focused; don’t loose yourself in a bottle; don’t be consumed by the worries and anxieties of this life, though there seem to be many, rather keep watch and continue in prayer that God may grant you the ability and strength to stand in the midst of hardship and trial. That basically is where I think this text is at.
For most of us our challenge for the day is probably nowhere as severe as that of the original readers of this text, but the task of staying focused, keeping the truth and hope of Christ alive in your life, and not filling up life with the nonessential is still of vital importance. Most certainly this can be a significant message for us as we begin this season of Advent and look toward the celebration of Christmas.
The Christmas buying season seems to start before Halloween. This year even the news reports were warning us that we should purchase early because supplies at the stores are running behind and may rapidly sell out. How horrible if we cannot buy what we want. What will happen to Christmas? Black Friday already seems to begin with Halloween. Sales are pushed so much that one might think Black Friday is a holiday itself, and yet the Black Friday idea was not a theme in life until the 1980’s. It is a modern invention of consumerism. Has our world lost focus on what is truly important and filled the empty places up with merchandising reports, and early morning sales?
Sometimes I think there are many who desire to separate Christ from Christmas. Stores and salespeople are encouraged to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” The world seems to say let’s celebrate Christmas but let us not put too much of Christ within Christmas. I sometimes wonder how many people do not realize that Christmas is about the celebration of Jesus birth. We may get through it in this manner, but we may never know why we came or where we are going. We may never find ourselves standing in the presence of Christ, and outside of his presence is nothing but a lonely and dark place with hearts weighed down by dissipation, drunkenness, and the cares and worries of life.
Where is our focus this season? My encouragement to you this season is to reverse the trend. Don’t loose focus on Christ during this Christmas season. Watch and be ready. Do spend time in prayer, worship, spiritual devotions, coming to church, and in acts of love and witness. Do what you can to let others know that Jesus is indeed the reason for the season. Keep Christ at the center of Christmas. Many children today may never be told that Jesus birth is what we are celebrating. If we just go along with the flow, we too may forget why we are celebrating.
Therefore, I say stay focused, don’t eat too much turkey and be ready to play the game. Celebrate Christmas, but as we read in 1 Peter, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” Make it a point to tell at least one person the real reason for why you are celebrating Christmas. Keep focused and tell them that a savior has been born. That is what Christmas is about. Don’t eat too much turkey. Amen.