I was sitting at my desk in my home office yesterday morning working down my things to do today list. Job #1 was finishing the syllabus for a course on storytelling I’m teaching next semester. To my usual at home outfit of jeans and t shirt I had added a blue snuggy and an afghan. My attire fit the Advent season. I was swaddled. This because the sudden onset of winter weather in Texas was apparently too much of a shock to the heating system in my home. It decided to take the day off.
Despite the winter chill, I was enjoying the morning. I love those rare days when you have several hours devoid of meetings and appointments and can really tear through that things to do list. Then came an email from John Hall. He is co host of a radio talk show in Pittsburgh with Kathy Emmons. It’s called the John and Kathy show and it airs on WORD-FM. They wanted to know if they could interview me on air at 4:40pm Eastern Standard Time about an Edgy Exegesis column I wrote back on August 12, 2012 on John 6:51-58. Edgy Exegesis is a weekly column I write on the gospel lectionary text. I could have said no, but I was curious as to why they picked this entry out of all the others to have me talk about at Advent when the lectionary texts during December are from Luke. There went my carefully planned schedule of accomplishing the things on my list.
I had to put preparing for the 15 minute radio interview at the top of my list. I don’t do well without preparation, and if I stumbled over my words on live radio, I would bring shame to all those who bear the McKenzie name, both in this country and in Scotland. Besides I had no memory of what I had written back in August or concept of how it related to people’s faith at Advent.
My August 12 column was called “Living in Jesus’ Heart.” It began in this way:
As a child in Sunday School I sang the song “Into My Heart.”
“Into my heart, into my heart.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today, Come in to stay
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.”
It went on to say…
Our passage this week promises that Jesus will abide in those who “eat his flesh and drink his blood.”(Jn 6:56) So inviting him in is an excellent first step. It’s a good lesson for children to sing and remember.
The verb here translated abide (meno) occurs 40 times in John and 29 times in the Johannine letters. It means to remain, stay, abide, live, dwell, last, endure, continue. The noun mone means a dwelling place, room or home.
John’s Gospel emphasizes that we are to invite Jesus to live in or abide in us.
John also highlights the bigger picture- that, as Jesus abides in God, so we already “abide in Jesus.” We live in Jesus’ heart.
As Paul tells the Athenians in Acts 17:27-28 “God is not far from each of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’”
We live in Jesus’heart and Jesus’ house. In the first chapter of John, Jesus sees some disciples of John the Baptist following him. He said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi”where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. (Jn 1:38-39)
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?(Jn 14:2)
We are used to thinking about Jesus living in us and inviting him into our hearts. We are not so accustomed to meditating on the reality that we already live in Jesus’ heart. The recognition that we live in Jesus is both comforting and challenging. It’s comforting because we don’t have to do everything. When our personal lives are chaotic or disappointing, when our society is polarized and violent, we remember that we live and move and have our being in Jesus. That is our context. It is a context of judgment but also of hope.
As I read through the words I’d written in August, hugging my snuggy around me, I thought, “Ok, I think I see why it caught their eye. It does relate to Advent and Christmas.
I practiced making the following statement for my on air debut later in the afternoon.
“At Christmas we are constantly being told to make room in our hearts and homes for Jesus. We are exhorted to spend more time in prayer to prepare the Inn of our hearts for the baby. We are encouraged to decorate our homes beautifully with lights and a tree and ornaments and maybe get out that set of Christmas dishes so we can invite Jesus for a meal. We are to invite our harmonious family and abundant friends into our home for festive cookie swaps with egg nog. I have nothing against any of this. But what if half the lights are burned out on my tree and I don’t have a harmonious family or many friends? Then I will find comfort in knowing that Christmas is not just about inviting Jesus into our hearts and lives.
It’s about realizing that all year long we live and move and have our being in God. We live in Jesus’ heart. Christmas is about facing into the reality, whether the world believes it or not, whether we feel it or not, Jesus is our context. God becoming Incarnate is the air we breathe.
We are guests in Jesus’ heart, beloved inhabitants of his house.
Jesus abides in us, but this Christmas, let’s remember that we abide in him.”
I practiced it 3 times, then put on makeup, combed my hair, and added a festive scarf to my snuggy/afghan ensemble. Just because it’s radio doesn’t mean one shouldn’t still take some pains with one’s appearance.
Sure enough, John and Kathy called me at 4:40 Eastern Standard time. They were very gracious radio hosts, and my preparations were definitely a good idea. I still managed not to say some things quite as clearly and sharply as I had planned to. Also, I kind of wish I hadn’t been convinced to sing “Into my heart,” at the end of the interview. But I guess it doesn’t matter that much. At that time of the afternoon, their audience is only about 50,000 people.
 Out of 120 occurrences of the verb meno in the New Testament, 69 come from the Johannine tradition.