For 18 days leading up to the beginning of this new year, I pestered the members of the congregation I serve with a daily email encouraging them to be aware of moments in their lives that are “pregnant with the presence of God.”

I think it may have been a mistake.

Here are the emails I sent out, with my concern about this whole exercise at the end:

In his sermon on Sunday 11 December 2016 at St. Philip, The Rev. Dr. Bill Morrow suggested that:

Hannah and Mary both testify to their own religious experience, to their encounter with a moment that was pregnant with the presence of God. And what’s true for them is equally true here in St. Philip’s as well. Whatever right I have to stand here in this pulpit, it’s not because I have a wealth of religious experience. True, there have been a few moments in my life that were pregnant with the presence of God. But even without knowing many of you well, I know there are many people in this congregation for which that is equally true, and in some cases even more so. If only we could find a way to testify to those moments—however few and far between—which were pregnant with the presence of God in our lives!

As we travel through the next three weeks leading up to Christmas and the beginning of a new year, may our hearts be open to perceive those moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God”.

On Sunday January 1 “New Year’s Day” at 10:30 a.m. (one service only) during the sermon time, there will be an opportunity to share those moments you may have detected that have been for you “pregnant with the presence of God.

Bless you as you travel through this season of mystery and light.

December 14 – There are no moments that are not “pregnant with the presence of God”.

December 15 – The question is how aware am I of those moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God”.

December 16 – Am I able to find enough seconds of breathing space in these days to perceive the moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” even in the midst of the clutter and pressure of my life?

December 17 – Moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” are moments when something stirs deep in my being.

December 18 – I encounter moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” when I allow the brokenness and heartache of life to soften my heart.

December 19 – I perceive moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” when I take in the surprising beauty of life and allow that beauty to break open my heart.

December 20 – It is more difficult for me to perceive those moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” when my heart is hardened by the demands of my incessant needs, wants, and desires.

https://kevinbrown.bandcamp.com/track/as-quiet-as-grace

December 21 – I open more fully to an awareness of those moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” when I let go of my determination that life should unfold according to my wishes and expectations.

December 22 – Can I identify habits, attitudes and circumstances to which I cling that make it more difficult for me to perceive those moments in my life that are “pregnant with the presence of God”?

December 23 – I am more likely to perceive those moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” when I create even tiny spaces for stillness and silence throughout my day.

December 24 – In my experience moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” come most often clothed in tenderness like the feeling that might be evoked by a newborn baby.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fb4id4rDwd0

December 25 – If I am going to live conscious of those moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God”, I need to enter the deep mystery that exists at the outermost reaches of my ability to comprehend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47vRaiiSu5k

Come down to the manger, see the little stranger
Wrapped in swaddling clothes, the prince of peace
Wheels start turning, torches start burning
And the old wise men journey from the East

December 26 – The ability to perceive those moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” lies in the realm of the subtle senses of feeling and intuition that are often foreign territory for much of our lives.

December 27 – Am I willing to navigate the terrain of my own vulnerability in order to catch a glimpse of those moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God”?

Listen to Mary Gauthier’s beautiful prayer “Mercy Now”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT7NiFpJmvI

December 28 – Those moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” seldom come in the predictable safe environments where I am lulled into the illusion that I have some control over life.

December 29 – Moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” come when I reach the extremity of my understanding and the limits of my power and then step off into the unknown.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeVbFustTkg

So all you stumblers who believe love rules
Believe love rules
Believe love rules
Come all you stumblers who believe love rules
Stand up and let it shine
Stand up and let it shine

December 30 – Moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” may not look like the glitter and glamour of the world; but they carry the power born in the infant whose birth we have just celebrated.

December 31 – What practices, habits, disciplines, and company do I need to nurture in my life to help me keep tuned to perceive those moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God”?

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The potential problem in this exercise is that we may lose sight of the fact expressed in the first email sent out on December 14 in which I said that,

There are no moments that are not “pregnant with the presence of God”.

This is the important thing. All life is filled with the presence of the divine. There are no moments when God is absent.

I worry that, by concentrating on “moments that are pregnant with the presence of God”, I may have reinforced the perception that life is divided into moments that are “pregnant with the presence of God” and moments that are not. This sacred/non-sacred split is a fundamental error.

Gerard Manley Hopkins in his extraordinary poem “God’s Grandeur” understood that the question is never about presence or absence. It is only a question of times when we are aware and times when we are unconscious:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
The point is always awareness. The key is  in Hopkin’s question, “Why do men then now not reck his rod?”
“Reck” is “reckon”, ie. pay attention to. “Rod” is the sign of God’s authority or presence.
Hopkin’s answer is that we are so often “seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil” that, in the midst of “the dearest freshness deep down things” where “the Holy Ghost over the bent/ World broods,” we fail to acknowledge “the grandeur of God” with which “the world is charged.”
The challenge is to wake up to the reality of that divine presence which fills all of life. Even in the midst of the most ordinary moments, God is present and at work.
How can I stay deeply conscious of the mysterious sacred presence that haunts every moment of every day?
How do I remain receptive and open to the presence of love and beauty that is never absent from any aspect of my life?
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Here is a beautiful reading of Hopkin’s poem by a poet who clearly understood Hopkin’s words:
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