Grace and peace to you!
This is my last Sunday with you for 2020 as I and my family head off on leave and the joy of our daughter’s marriage celebration. It will be very special to conduct the wedding in the church that we worshipped at when Jamie was born and where she was Baptised.
This week I want to give thanks to God for sustaining us all through a very difficult year. This time last year, who would even have dreamt that the international news of the Coronavirus in a small town in China would end up having such a big impact on the entire globe.
As has happened throughout modern history, we approach Christmas with the dream of peace on earth and goodwill toward men, of the hope that this year we will experience a new life on earth where our trials are put behind us, and for many, this Christmas will be lived in the hope that the vaccine will be made available in 2021, and we can all return to a normal existence.
Advent speaks to a very different journey. In the early Church for at least 300 years of the New Testament era, Christmas was not celebrated, peace on earth was not materializing, the church was focused on the Second coming and deliverance from Roman control and persecution. It was an Easter Church focusing on the Death and Resurrection of Jesus as the source of deliverance. We of course believe that it is by the Cross that we are saved, but Christmas speaks to our theology of the Son, who is the Christ. Christmas speaks to the humility of the Christ who took on human form, and the example that Jesus set, in life, for us to follow. Jesus is the Author, Sustainer, and Perfector of our faith. Christmas is a time for celebrating the presence of God in the creation and our daily lives. As we journey through Advent, we journey in hope that the Coming of Christ not just as a babe in the manger, but as Creator and King, as the God who was and is and is to come, is fully revealed to us as our eyes are opened to see the glory of God.
Advent is a time when we reflect on how faithful God has been in our past, how He is being manifest to us in our present when we make room for Him and allow ourselves to see what God is doing. We learn from the desert experience of the people who crossed the Red Sea, that they could see what God had done in their past and they remained confident that He would deliver them into the promised land, in their future, but they couldn’t understand God’s action, in their present. They grumbled about food and water, doubting God in the present. I for one, can relate. It is easy to trust God with the past; which we can view in hindsight, reinterpret and see God’s hand in it. It is easy to trust God with our future and adopt an “all will be well attitude” of wishful thinking. But it is not easy to trust God with the immediate. With what I am feeling now, experiencing right now. And in our consumer mind-set of instant living, we are so in the “now” that we often lose sight of the bigger picture. In a world of instant answers, we struggle with having to be patient and persevere through, what is happening in the now, the immediate. That is the moment that the incarnation speaks to. That is what we are looking for throughout ADVENT to be manifest at Christmas – the God of the ‘present.’
Yes, the ‘present’ but not the instant. The prophecies of the coming of the Messiah and the thousands of years of anticipation teach us that the ‘present’ with God is not an isolated moment, today is part of eternity, and we must live in the context of eternity. The journey through Advent of wise kings traveling from afar reminds us that life is lived in the context of forever and not in the context of just this moment. Planned for, prepared for, waited for. ‘The present’ is the sum of God’s desires and our history. This Advent may we embrace the truth that the God of “the present’ is down in the mess with us, this is God stooping down to draw us up. This is the God who draws us out of the mire and clay, indeed we may be covered in the mud of life, but God is lifting us out. Don’t look at the mud, look to the cleansing water of life, Jesus Christ. Advent is a time to see ourselves in the context of God’s time, from eternity to eternity.
‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.’ (Col 3:2-4)
Love and peace.
Ember Day December 2020