It is with an ever increasing frequency that I am surprised by the discovery in the Sunday readings of something never before noticed. I suppose I must have preached on...
Last week we emphasised the need of expecting God to cause a happening in our lives. We questioned the firmness of our faith in this truth.
Well, this Sunday
OUR PSALM [126 or 125] has great news for us – “what great deeds the Lord has worked for us; indeed we were glad. … our mouths filled with laughter; on our tongues, songs of joy.” No matter what my own particular situation may be – no matter the sorrow, physical disability, isolation, disappointment or concerns – my expectation of the Lord must include a dominant measure of thanksgiving for the great deeds the Lord has wrought, and will continue to do, in my life. TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 3: 1 – 6] tells us that “every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill brought low, the crooked shall be made straight, rough ways shall be made smooth.” I must not work against what the Lord is trying to cause in my life.
All our scripture readings this Sunday speak to us about the GOOD NEWS that our God sends us – especially as it occurs in and through the birth of Jesus Christ. The most challenging aspect is the reminder that Paul provides in the NEW TESTAMENT READING [PHILIPPIANS 1:4 – 6. 8 – 11]. There the apostle tells us that he is “thankful for your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.” In addition, Paul tells us that he “is sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
At the birth of Jesus we were made his
PARTNERS. Partners are not supposed to work against each other. They are a team. Advent is supposed to remind us of this truth. I am composing these lines on the day when my work started by reading Pope Francis’ closing address to the recent Synod (balm to an old priest’s heart!). The Pope’s words included the thought that “the Gospel is a vital source of eternal newness, against all those who would indoctrinate it in dead stones to be hurled at others.” It is too easy to manipulate my personal, immediate, situation into a stone which I hurl at myself. In doing so I betray my partnership in the Gospel, and destroy any sort ofexpectation that the Lord is still more than capable of causing a good and joyful happening in my life. It is still very possible for me, in the here and now, to “see the salvation of God.”
It is of great value to see how the opening words of our Gospel reading clearly locates the birth of Jesus in a specific, historical, time and space. This Advent, this Christmas is also located in a specific historical time and space – and I happen to be a part of this history.
THIS IS MY TIME, my Advent and Christmas, and it is in this time that the Christ makes me a partner in the ongoing newness of his Gospel.
OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [BARUCH 5: 1 – 9] has some important lessons to teach. We must stop feeling sorry for ourselves, bewailing our imagined fate. So, “stand upon the height … look … and see. … Take off the garment of your sorrow … put on the robe of righteousness … rejoicing that God has remembered.”
The prophet tells us that in our time we
“will walk safely in the glory of God.” Immediately, the question posed last week has to be repeated – DO I REALLY BELIEVE IN THE PROMISES OF GOD? Advent puts our belief to the test.
When I wish someone a Merry Christmas I am actually saying to that person, God has remembered! My wish for the other is, in truth, that they will know, again, that they are able to walk safely.
Today’s Gospel informs us that
“the word of God came to John in the wilderness.” It may well be that there are parts of my life (or even the whole of it?) which I see as being in the wilderness. Well, the word of God can still come to me – there is an eternal newness in this word.
It is mine for the taking – provided I do not work against it.