Sermon podcast: Advent 39 Dec 2019 By Sermon Podcasts
Paul Lawlor, Vicar of Holy Trinity, Redditch and Faith at Work in Worcestershire Chaplain, 15 December 2019.
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I don’t know what you do with your Advent wreath, assuming you have one. I tend to follow a pattern of Patriarchs, Prophets, John the Baptist, Mary and then, of course Jesus on Christmas day.
The Advent readings support this and give John the Baptist two outings. One as the Archetypal prophet and, today as the one preparing the way for Jesus.
In James we reminded of a feature of this prophetic ministry…patience…”Be patient therefore…until the coming of the Lord”.
I’m not the most patient of people, I would prefer the reading to be “keep busy with the following tasks until the coming of the Lord...Oh and by the way you will frequently see the following results of your labours.” We can read the biblical narrative in a way that makes us long for constant action because fail to see the gaps, the periods of waiting, of faithful prayer and dedication to God.
We don’t tend to remember the sitting out of long famines – or periods of waiting on God to act, or times simply getting on with life in our current context – walking steadily on in the desert.
We remember the events, the exciting moments but forget that a lot of time can pass in between.Do we long for action and tire of waiting?
Our modern world loves immediacy. If you want to do something, look it up on the internet, check out the YouTube clip and off you go. It is easy to forget so many things require time and practice to hone. Successful sportsmen and women will speak of this. Even in the joy of wining they don’t forget the cost of getting to that point. Early morning training – pain - watching every single thing you eat or drink…things that change who you are.
Practice, persistence and waiting are a challenge. When we wait, it is helpful to have markers, to have signposts along the way – we need indicators to help us in the waiting to show that the waiting is leading to something.
The prophets offer those signposts – John the Baptist pointed to Jesus. Today we still have prophetic voices in the Church that help us in our time of waiting. They point us at the future that God has promised thought Jesus and they help us to navigate the present in the light of that future. We don’t always agree with those voices, but then look at the experience of the prophets of the Old Testament.
In Matthew, we read of John pondering if Jesus is the Messiah OR another signpost en-route.John the archetypal Prophet, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, the one preparing the way of the Lord….even he wonders….is He, is Jesus, really the one? How well to wait on God today? Do we doubt?
Jesus’ response is one of Word and Deed - “go report what you hear and see.” This points us to how we should wait now. He calls us to an active waiting, rather than a passive waiting. We continue the work of Jesus, rather than just waiting passively until He returns.
In our active waiting can we pray that we can join in the work of Kingdom of God as proclaimed in the words of the prophet Isaiah. “The eyes of the blind [will] be opened”, “the ears of the deaf unstopped” the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy. And the good news – the Gospel – is preached to the poor. May these be the things we see and tell of.
As John pointed to the physical present of Jesus on Earth can we point to His on-going work in the world by His Holy Spirit?
The Prophets and John the Baptist point to a moment in history where we change from awaiting the Messiah to being people living in the midst of His Kingdom coming. A process which continues until He returns in Glory.
May we wait – in that knowledge and light of the Kingdom of God being close at hand.
As we wait, are we seeking the Kingdom of God breaking through into the time we live? However, we feel about the results of the elections and all that surrounds life now, what is God calling us to so that the work of the Kingdom of God may flourish?
If you feel that you’ve been waiting for too long - pray! Pray that you may see God at work in the word, in your local church, in people around you or in you.
May God bless us all as we wait on Him.