Thursday, 18 December 2008

Sermon for a cold morning

This was the sermon last week...

Preparing The World

This week I watched a movie about Father Christmas which I enjoyed very much, it was the third one in the series known as ‘The Santa Clause’ movies – called the ‘the escape clause’ and had a very positive message about love being the focus of Christmas, and that the true magic of Christmas wasn’t about toys or commercialism, but about family and friends, about giving and caring. There are many people who feel the same about Christmas time, and the Church should encourage such thoughts as Christmas approaches, but as the shops are packed, decorations are going up, turkeys are being chosen (or nut loaves depending on your preference), carols are being sung, parties are happening, presents are being wrapped, postmen (and women) are complaining, plans are being made, TV guides are being searched for all the best programmes - into the middle of all this comes a voice:
“Prepare the way of the Lord…”

It’s not a very loud voice, compared to most of the noise of Christmas, in fact it’s easily missed. It seems to be the quietest voice of all in today’s Christmas - but that doesn’t mean it’s not there -
“Prepare the way of the Lord…”

It’s so quiet, but it’s insistent, it keeps on calling, even when hidden it keeps calling, even covered in wrapping paper, tinsel, presents, cards and decorations it is still there. Even drowned out by carols it calls. It is the message of Christmas that we as Christians have, the original message of Christmas, the reason this whole thing exists…
“Prepare the way of the Lord…”

It is easy to loose the central message of Christmas in our modern world. Though there are many positive things said about loving, giving, peace and hope in the general Christmas message that comes out from our TV screens, our movies and our media the essential message is more than that, the Christian message is that Christ has come, that Christ still comes (in those we meet every day) and that Christ will come again.
“Prepare the way of the Lord…”

John the Baptist, in our passage today, said more than just ‘The Lord will come’ more than just ‘at some time it will happen’ but Christ is coming. There was an immanence, an immediacy about his proclamation that made people listen. John’s message of God being close brought people from near and far to hear what he had to say. John’s message was one that got people’s attention, that made people respond, that made the reality of God come closer for them. It is the same message that we are called upon to proclaim today, the same gospel, of Immanuel, of God with us that John brought to the people all those years ago.
“Prepare the way of the Lord…”

But how is this message to be proclaimed? Where is John The Baptist for the 21st Century? Who’s task is it to prepare our world for the coming of Christ?

It’s our task. We who are the Church have the job of proclaiming Christ to our generation. There’s no escaping it. Part of the reason the voice is so quiet is that many of us - myself included - enjoy Christmas as it is. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there is a good message, there are plenty of positive things about the modern Christmas, plenty of enjoyable things. But it’s not enough to just let everyone get on with celebrating Christmas in the usual way -we have a message that adds to Christmas, that draws more from the celebration, that offers a greater hope to humanity. Our Christmas message is one which stretches throughout the year, which lasts forever, which can change hearts, minds and lives.
“Prepare the way of the Lord…”

So we prepare the world - by proclamation and by living the good news of the Gospel of Christ. Our message is one of new life, of the peace of God, of God’s love for every individual, of the need to love our neighbour. Our message is a positive one and is one to be spoken and one to be lived. It is important to remember that it is not only our words that spread the gospel, it is our lifestyle, it is the way we are God’s people, as well as those who say we are God’s people.

And so a world which tends to speak a language of self-concern and self-advancement, of oppression and injustice, of having and wanting is given a new language, one which is based on words of love and grace, of giving and caring. In this way God’s word is again living and active - and Christ once again is brought near. By our lives and our words we prepare the way for the entry of Christ into the lives of people who do not know him. In this way we prepare a world which is unprepared for a God who cares for them, who is willing to die for them, who loves them with everything he is.

In some ways, however, the world can never be ready for Christ. The message of the gospel is a surprise and always will be. The message that God comes to us in the weak, the humble, the hurting, the needy, is one that shocks, that is unexpected. Our God is a God of surprises. Our God is a God who chooses to work through us, to rely on His people to prepare the way for the working of His living, active, dynamic spirit. God puts into our hands the responsibility of preparing the way.
“Prepare the way of the Lord…”

If I were God I’d want to do it differently - something big, something noticeable - something in neon, perhaps, with a loud soundtrack - maybe multimedia, a few thousand angels and a really big sound system. But I am not God, and our God has chosen us to show and tell the message.

There is a story of a statue of Christ found in a ruined Church. The hands and feet of the statue had broken off in the devastation that had destroyed the Church. That statue was never repaired, though, those who found it said that it reminded them that we are the hands and feet of Christ in our world.

We are the ones responsible for bringing the message of Christmas to the people around us. This may not involve saying anything to them about faith, but by the way we act towards them, as we seek to do what Christ claimed he was here to do:
“…to bring good news to the poor…proclaim release to the captives…recovery of sight to the blind…to let the oppressed go free…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour…”

In our own way, then, we are the ones who make straight the way of the Lord, who create a path through the barriers in the hearts of women and men who do not know, or want to know, Christ. We are the ones who bring Christ into the wilderness of lives that long for the love of God to come in.
“Prepare the way of the Lord…”

So let’s prepare ourselves and our world for Christmas. In preparing for it let us open ourselves to what God, by the Holy Spirit, would do in us and through us. Let us celebrate the fact that Christ has come near, and that Christ wants to be a part of our world and our lives today. Let us celebrate Christmas because we have good reason to celebrate and because the Kingdom of Heaven is among us, the same Kingdom that can be likened to a banquet or a wedding feast. The same Kingdom of Heaven that is echoed in our celebration of the Eucharist. The same Kingdom we can celebrate in our parties and our Christmas dinners. Let us proclaim a message of good news, the gospel of Christ as we enjoy Christmas and as we Prepare the way of the Lord.

Now to God alone be all majesty, might, power and dominion, in the Church and throughout the world now and evermore. Amen.

1 comment:

Melli said...

Today is a COLD morning in my part of the world... and I have a cold on top of that. It was the PERFECT morning to stop in and hear your sermon! It is THIS I love about the internet and the blogosphere! I can travel the world and hear God's word and receive such wonderful messages and sermon's without even leaving my home. THANK you for sharing that message! It was indeed worth revamping for your new parishes ... and for me!

I do indeed HOPE that I am preparing a way for the Lord! Living in a house of non-believers it gets very frustrating sometimes... I wonder if they will ever see the light. I can only hope (and pray) that the Holy Spirit will be able to use SOMEthing that I do to open their eyes and their hearts to His love, His grace... and His mercy.

Thank you Alastair!