Alan Neale

Writer • Speaker

Sermon “Do you have any room?” Sunday December 24 2017 9am. Trinity Church, Newport RI. The Reverend Alan Neale


I resonate, I delight in the simple message of this sermon. I want it to be true, authentic for me and in my life but I accept it is a daily renewal.

Of course, there is a lesson here that is of value for all healthy and functional relationships of significance to us.


Below the sermon audio is the sermon text taken into the pulpit, the sermon preached is a little different.

Sermon preached at Trinity Church, Newport, RI
Sunday December 24 (9am, Advent IV)
The Reverend Alan Neale
“Do you have any room?”

A few days ago a friend, a member of Trinity, made a searing and insightful comment about our garage (what I used to call “garridge”). She said, “There’s not much room for the cars in there.” And she is correct; since our return to Aquidneck Island our once spacious garage has had to serve multiple purposes… right now it strains to contain two cars and a gross amount of what only can be called “stuff” – earnestly waiting for a 2018 Yard Sale.

It’s not comfortable to get in and out of the cars but there’s room, well just enough.

It made me think… how much, how often have I tried to make room in my life for the Lord but the emphasis has been on “making room”, re-shuffling, re-filing, re-shelving so that there is room but only room enough.

Oh I remember with delight when we first returned to our home in 2015… garage totally empty, generous room for cars but slowly “stuff” infiltrated and the abundance space became restricted. It’s not something that we planned to do… it just happened.

Today’s collect (one beloved by our Rector Anne Marie), today’s collect prays that our Lord will come and “find a mansion prepared for himself.” The mansion here, and the mansions in John 14, are not Bellevue Avenue Cottages but rather a place with room to breathe, leg room. Not like cattle class on most airlines where we are offered the space of a seat but hardly the ‘mansion’ of leg-room.

King David, in our first reading from 2 Samuel, wanted to build a mansion, cedar-paneled, solid in structure, impressive in design for the Lord. As often before, it is left to the brave and forthright prophet Nathan to confront the King and challenge the royal mind. It is not the external glory of the edifice that matters to the Lord but rather that there be room in the heart and life of his shepherd king David.

And the blessed Virgin (Luke 1) ponders with awe and some fright as to “how can this be?” How can there be room in her life to receive the seed of the divine child? How can there be room in her life to conceive and deliver this child when so much fear and anger, gossip and innuendo surround her? How can she prepare “a mansion” for the Christ-child… well, by surrender… surrender to the Holy Spirit and submission to the Word.

Recently I came across a quotation of William Wilberforce in which he says four words describe the Christian spiritual journey… admit, submit, commit, transmit. This dynamic creates space, abundant space for the Lord – truly a mansion prepared for himself; rather than the creation of tight spaces achieved by cramming and pushing and fervent re-arranging.

Friends, this business of making room for the Lord is crucial… my heart aches when I see the pained and strained, gray and ashen faces of people frenetically shopping, struggling to make more room, more time, more space, more money.

Friends, this business of making room for the Lord is crucial… and it may well involve a radical spring clean (December clean even), ditching and removing attitudes and resentments, habits and addictive behavior so that there is “mansion-like” room for the Lord in our hearts and lives.

Though it has been a challenge (understatement!?) to work through this Sunday… Advent IV and then Christmas Eve, somehow we’ve made room but at the cost of what energy, stillness, reflection?

Thinking about this sermon, friends, I realize that all too often in my life… I make room for the Lord (readjust) rather than giving him admission to a generous space freed from clutter and stuff; I want this to change… that primary space is given to Him and let other things be secondary and in so doing I know “all will be well, all will be well, and all manner of thing will be well.”

I finish with words from a Victorian hymn, written by Emily Elizabeth Steele:
1 Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.
2 Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

And know this, be deeply assured and wonderfully convicted, there is always room in the heart of God for you, for me. Generous, mansion-like room.

Thanks be to God. Amen