Isaiah 40:1-11 Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 2 Peter 3:8-15a Mark 1:1-8
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Advent is about newness but the bit of Peter’s letter we read today talks of destruction. His description is picked-up by those “The End of the World is Nigh” advocates and interpreted to mean that there will be utter destruction of the World. In these times that immediately leads us to think of nuclear destruction, which would be even worse than the terrible devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and even of the non-nuclear devastation of Halifax Nova Scotia a century ago. Shockingly we still live under the threat of mass destruction. You can look at Peter’s message in a more cosmic way. Take Frideriche Nietsche’s idea. He proposed a “Recurring Universe” one that explodes a la ‘Big Bang’, forms, expands then contracts and implodes only to explode again and repeat the process for ever and a day, with one of those infinite in number universes possibly being perfect and therefore free of evil, for all things are possible. Well I don’t think God wants to destroy His creation, although the image of the potter reworking the clay does bear some similarity to a “Recurring Universe” ! (Jeremiah 18:4).
All of that though flies in the face of what we know of God’s plan for us. God who ‘Comforts us’, is our ‘Shepherd’ and who leads us to safety is not the God who is going to blow us away. God who brings ‘Mercy and truth together’, who causes ‘Righteousness and Peace to kiss’, who makes ‘Truth spring up from the Earth, and Righteousness look down from Heaven’ is not going to lead us to destruction.
Instead of all that devastation God sent a prophet called John who prepared the way for Jesus the Saviour of the World, the Salvador Mundi, and so He came, taught, healed, suffered and died for us. God is not going to let Jesus’ life be in vain. His mission is contained in these wonderful words “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”. (John 3:16-17). If that is what God intends, it will happen ! God doesn’t fail, and God doesn’t give up. The image of the potter is one in which we as individuals are reshaped by God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. The clay is not destroyed only reshaped into the perfect vessel for our own eternal spirits – we are destined to be perfect. We will only achieve that if we take into ourselves, mercy and truth and righteousness and peace. And we can only do that through Jesus Christ.
And that is what we are preparing for today and throughout Advent, and indeed throughout the entire year, every year.
There is enough stuff going on this year, enough hate, aggression, belligerence and braggadocio that the Advent message is really necessary for the world to continue to exist, you know Hope, Peace, Joy and Love and if we don’t spread them no one else is going to.
This is traditionally a time for being generous, with gift-giving and so on. A gift that all people will appreciate is the gift of the heart. Open your hearts to others, let them know that you respect them and what they do. Let them know that you have an open ear for them when they want to pour out their troubles. Support others, even strangers with a smile or a kind word or a gesture, you may never know what the effect of that is but they can’t make things worse. As the Psalm says let righteousness and truth meet in you. There is too much belligerence in the world and I think we are all sick of it. It depletes our energies quicker than anything because belligerence in others seems to so easily defeat our efforts and undermine our self-confidence. But don’t let it ! This church has been around for a long time, that’s not because our predecessors lost heart, no. It’s been around because the Lord has granted prosperity of spirit and increased the yield of Faith to those who believed in Him and followed His path.
Advent is a time of anticipation. We repeat it every year so that we don’t forget to look forward with Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Without those our world will become like Gotham City, grey, dark, threatening and unpleasant in every way, populated by people who have no Hope for tomorrow, or even for today. That’s not the world we want to live in by any means. Our world is full of light and colour, warmth and good provenance. It’s a world that can only come about by being Christ-like in our own lives.
This year is nearly ended, but it is not the end of times, like every second it is the beginning of times. A time of new growth in faith, in action, in happiness, all built on the foundation of the Incarnation, the Birth of Jesus Christ. Although His supreme act was to die and to rise again to Resurrected life, Jesus’ Birth was the beginning of a new world. God Incarnate walked among us, taught for the ages, healed the sick and subdued Nature to His will, all so that we will be saved not destroyed. This then is a time for us to be positive in our outlook, strong in our faith and eager in action, for tomorrow and tomorrow will bring great things, things of which we can now only imagine. Let us be faithful to those who have preceded us and prepare the way for those yet to come, because like John the Baptist we too are heralds, messengers, of the Coming Christ. Amen.