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akeyI recently had two experiences that taught me the importance of staying awake and always being sure my keys are on my person when I am around doors that could lock automatically unless I check the position of the locking device (i.e. pop the button or turn it as necessary to really unlock). Sometimes it requires more than ordinary consciousness to assure the position of that button, as I found out at a retreat center when I locked myself out of my bedroom at 2:30 in the morning. That mistake required a long walk to the front desk to find the guard who came with me and opened the door with a master key. On the second occasion, I was in a generally unconscious state because of too many thoughts running around in my head as I went into my office and dropped everything I was carrying on a table; everything, that is, except the food I brought with me that I then took to the refrigerator in the kitchen. Upon my return I realized that I had not done step two: turning the button on the center of the doorknob to the open setting. I was outside looking through the glass at my presentation for the evening, my purse that housed my phone, my computer and all my contacts and, yes, my keys. I was totally at the mercy of God, the downstairs phone and my memory which I was hopeful would be the key to remembering a phone number that could save me. God and the pastor of the Church were kind that day and all was soon restored.

It is an understatement to say that keys are important. Today our homes, our workplaces and even our churches are generally locked and unavailable to us without keys. Metaphorically, we need mental keys to understand difficult texts or to teach children ways of remembering important information, often in song. One that I always recall is M-A-DOUBLE S-A-C-H-U-S-E-DOUBLE T-S, boom, boom, boom, Boston, Boston, my hometown… (Kids from Oklahoma got a big boost when the Broadway musical of the same name appeared…but I digress.) The point is that it is important to keep our keys with us both physically and consciously, and today the liturgy points to Christ, the descendant of David as the key to life and living. And so, we are called to pray:

O Key of David and Scepter of the House of Israel, You open and no one closes; You close and no one opens. Come and deliver us from the chains of prison who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Key of David, ruler of life, you unlocked the door to God’s kingdom. Come, pry loose the lynch pins of our hearts and open to us your advent.