Advent 2 Evening
Romans 15. 4-13
We are gearing up in our preparations now...
The decorations are appearing;
the address lists for the Christmas Cards - "who on earth
are "Bert and Stella" ??? and where did we meet them?;
shopping lists are being drawn up and cakes and puddings prepared;
invitations are being issued "Please join us for drinks
And here in church it is much
the same. The tree now waits over there in the corner;' Experience
Christmas' will be created for our children to enjoy; carol services
are being planned and haggled over - "Not Hark the Herald
But what is it all for? Is
it just about providing a feel-good factor in the middle of winter?
That would account at least in part, for our experience of Christmas
here in the Northern Hemisphere.... but what about our friends
and relatives 'down-under'? It is no less Christmas for them
too, even though it may be 80 in the shade!
Christmas is not - despite appearances - just about boosting
the retail industry.
We celebrate the incarnation; We celebrate that God took time
out from his busy schedule of creating worlds and galaxies to
enter into our human condition here on earth. We celebrate that
because Jesus was born, and lived and died - and rose again -
among us, his message of love is real and relevant to every single
person on this planet - whether they know it or not. And it is
up to us to help show them that fact. That is God's mission to
us - that is why Christmas is so important.
Well yesterday your PCC - the
church council - most of them at least - took time out from the
Christmas Shopping and preparations to do some getting ready
of a different sort. We spent a few hours thinking and planning
for what this church might be - might become - in the next few
months; in the next few years.
There were lots of positives
- a few negatives, but that is only natural and we can always
learn from our mistakes, and some really good forward-thinking
ideas. We have purposely limited ourselves to 3 or 4 main actions
as a Church council and leadership for the next 12 months - aware
that if we succeed in carrying out some or most of them, the
effects will be felt in this community for years to come.
And key among that will be
to encourage the wider community - many of whom we will see in
the next few weeks at our Christingle and Carol Services - to
tell us what they would like from us as a church. We know we
need to build relationships - both within our walls and outside
of them. Now that is not just down to me; or just down to the
PCC; it is something in which all of us can be involved. Something
in which all of us must be involved if this church is to thrive
in this place.
The ancient Kings of Judah
and Israel sought to know what God's intentions were for them
and for their plans to go to war... But they did not like it
when God's prophet seemed to tell them that all their plans were
doomed from the beginning! Not what they wanted to hear at all!
And the king's response is to imprison the prophet on short rations
- hoping to influence him to make a more favourable prophecy.
But it doesn't work that way.
God cannot be manipulated and bent to what seems convenient for
Rather we have to try and seek
out what God's will is at any set moment, and then bend our actions
and plans to help bring that about.
We cannot force people into
relationship with God or with his church... Coercion has been
tried often enough in the past and it never works. That is a
lesson that some of the Islamist extremists still need to learn.
Human beings can be terrorised - but not into loving the Lord.
Terror, force, coercion will only breed hatred and resistance
- not love and life-enhancing experience.
We cannot argue people into
faith or belief. All we can do is show them; show them what a
difference it makes in our lives; impress them with our commitment
to the life and well-being of the community; invite them to join
us in our celebrations ; be alongside them as a sympathetic and
listening ear in their troubles and concerns. Build bridges and
links, networks and friendships. Be prepared to learn from them,
as well as to share our own values
And so - rather like the work
that has to be done when a new road is created - 'a highway in
the desert' as another prophet, Isaiah, reminds us often at this
time of year. Only when the groundwork is done, the systems and
strategies in place,; only then will God come and fill in our
trench - the gaping hole - the great lack in our life, and fill
it with his light and love. Filling the emptiness that tells
us we were made for God; filling us with his very essence....
being born once more in humanity.
So as you continue in your
preparations for the good time to come - and as we continue in
our preparations for the life of this church, May the God of
hope fill us all with joy and peace in believing, so that we
may all abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.