31 JULY 2011 SAHARA KINGSMEAD CRICKET STADIUM Cardinal Wilfrid Napier OFM will be celebrating four milestone anniversaries this year (40 years as Priest; 30 years as Bishop; 10 years as...
How are you going with being gracious and hospitable to the Lord? There is a wonderful reminder of his similar outreach to us in this Sundays ENTRANCE
“Behold, … the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard in the joy of your heart.”
If we do not tune ourselves to hear his voice in these Advent weeks, we will not hear it on Christmas Day. In addition, our hearts need to be joyful – NOW! No good waiting for Christmas and expecting a miracle!
So, hear the voice of the Lord in our four Scripture extracts.
BARUCH 5: 1 – 9
PSALM 126 (or 125)
PHILIPPIANS 1: 4 – 6. 8 – 11
LUKE 3: 1 – 6
Baruch tells us “take off your garment of sorrow … put on your head the diadem of the glory … for God will show your splendour … arise. ..” Advent is a time for us to stand up and be counted. Do not embark upon the common track of bemoaning all that has to be done, and how tired you are becoming. In this frame of mind you will not hear the voice of the Lord.
Then, the Psalm takes up the battle for us by giving the reminder that it is easy for us to become “exiles.” We need the reminder “what great deeds the Lord worked for us! Indeed, we were glad.” Let us get back into the swing of things “with a song.” There is, indeed, such a thing as Advent Joy.
In the New Testament extract we read ” … my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now … he who began this good work in you will bring it to completion …“ Yes, Advent looks to the past and points to the future. However, we can become so caught up with the past and concerned with the future, that we forget about the PRESENT! It is in the here and now that God-in-Christ needs our partnership. We must not allow ourselves to become “exiles” in our own world.
It is a great privilege to be partners with the Lord in the work of the Gospel. It is, also an enormous responsibility. ROWAN WILLIAMS (soon to be the former Archbishop of Canterbury) in his latest book writes:
“if it is true that the world depends entirely on the free gift of God, and that the direct act and presence of God has uniquely appeared in history in the shape of a human life two millennia ago, this has implications for how we think about that world and about human life.” [FAITH IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE: Page 1: Bloomsbury]
Archbishop Williams goes on to speak about the risks that need to be taken if the Gospel is to be a relevant force in our contemporary world. Well, if we are Christs partners we need to take risks. It is by the risks we take that God brings to completion what he has already begun in us: Risks taken in the present. Risks which begin to give evidence of the good works God has worked for us, and will continue to do so in the future. This Advent is NOW – and in this now we are reminded what God-in-Christ has already begun in us and the world in which we live. Advent also reminds us that God sent his Son INTO the world. Jesus Christ became a part of us and our world. Perhaps the real miracle of Christmas is the fact that by becoming a part of us we have become a part of him, a part of his work, and a part of his Gospel?
So, Advent challenges us to THINK IN GOSPEL TERMS about the world and about human life. If we are unable to bring something positive and constructive to completion in our world during the space of these four Advent weeks, then the Gospel will encounter real difficulty in being permanently relevant. The start of this challenge is to be built on our graciousness with, and hospitality, to our world – and to the Lord.
This Sundays Gospel extract provides us with two further important points. Firstly, see how Luke goes to great pains to place John the Baptist (and, consequently, Jesus Christ) in a specific time and place – they are historical facts. We, too, are in time and place. We are a part of history now being recorded.
Secondly, we might feel we are swimming against the tide – “a voice crying in the wilderness.” Yet, opposition is good for us, and helps to hone our endeavours. This week, if nothing else, we could make a special effort to straighten some little path, and fill in a small pothole – and we could make a start with ourselves!
Let us do it “with a song.”