Notes from the sermon given by the Dr Jan Betts on 2nd December 2018 – Advent Sunday
Happy New Year. It’s the start of our church year
Every year we go through the life of Jesus, beginning with thinking about how we are longing and waiting for God to come to us. Then God does come, in the birth and death and resurrection of Jesus, in the Spirit at Pentecost, and then is present in our ordinary lives, and in the whole of creation. Every year we remember this story of God with us from birth to when God winds up the world.
Today we’re right at the beginning of that story, before the messiah comes, when all is held just in faith and the hope that someday, sooner or later, salvation may just turn up in some form or other. Advent is a time of longing and looking forward. Mary was longing for a safe delivery of her baby. She was probably a bit desperate at having to hop on that donkey at 39 weeks pregnant and go to Bethlehem. What was God doing to her? The Jews were longing for a Messiah to sweep away the Romans and in our scripture reading Jesus tells than that just ain’t going to happen.
Luke 21 25-36
My question to us all today is ‘What are we longing for?’ right now, before the baby arrives. What are our desires? Because when we face our deepest longings truthfully this is our closest connection to God, our way to find out what God can really show us about ourselves and our relationship with this loving living creator sustainer and redeemer.
We may be longing for:
Freedom from our prisons
Nourishment when we are hungry
Justice in times and places of injustice
peace in time of conflict
comfort and connection in times of loneliness
inclusion when we experience contempt
justice for the earth
justice fairness and respect in our workplaces
rest from our busyness
comfort in grief
These things have always been with us. There’s nothing new in abuse of every kind and there’s nothing new in our longing to have a world where we are safe and loved and treated with absolute respect. But here we are in a messy world with our longings, real and oppressive and leading us to despair sometimes.
And what is God’s reply to our longings?
Yes me too. I long for all these things much much more than you do!
And this is what’s going to happen
God doesn’t say I’m going to send a baby, which is what Christmas seems to be all about. She says ‘My saving justice is going to be born on earth.’ Not a new child but a new way of showing you what I created you to be.
Saving justice is about the way God is going to, has already, brought and shown in the life of Jesus, the restoring way of love and humility and respect and truthfulness. There is justice in this, but it’s not about punishment. It’s about God engaging with us to show us hope in despair, love in bitterness, saying ‘me too. I’m been there and I am here’. St Ignatius said desolation is the time of the lie and God’s truth is always with us. Sometimes it feels very hard to know that in our times of despair. We need to know God, to remember all God has done and is. God won’t save us from our tears but she will wipe them away. One of the best places to learn about desolation and longing and consolation in God is in the psalms.
Las week we sang this and let’s hear it again:
Violet announces Christ in our cosmos,
Holding our Earth in all of its pain.
Christ now invites us: join in my mission!
Cov’nant with me to bring peace again.