Daniel 12:1-3 Psalm 16 Hebrews 10:11-25 Mark 13:1-8
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We are about to enter the Christmas season when we celebrate the Birth of a special Baby, who was surrounded by warmth, soft sounds and the Glory of God shining all around; the smell of dry straw, with the sound of the animals breathing and the warmth from their bodies filling and heating the stable, and the perfect rest of mother and Child after a great labour. These are the things that fill the air. Angels singing in the heavens show the power and the Glory of God. Shepherds come in from the fields neglecting their duties to witness the beginning of the greatest story ever told. You know it is Christmas Eve when all these things come together.
But you’d never guess it from two of the Readings today. Daniel talks of anguish and Jesus warns of destruction from wars and natural disasters. I know which picture I prefer. But it occurs to me that like all things what is seen to happen depends upon the viewer’s desire to see, the viewer’s mindset. Let’s take just one example. Revolutions are seen as a disaster by those of the status quo elites but the poor and the oppressed see them as liberation from oppression. Same things two diametrically opposed view points.
We want things to be nice but we must be prepared for reality. The stable was probably mucky and stinky, and very unsanitary in a time when women frequently died of septicemia infections after childbirth. There was the threat of a ‘home’ invasion by a bunch of roughneck shepherds. Who knew what they might do? And there’s those other people who have bedded down their animals and perhaps themselves too in those cramped quarters. Just be careful ! And it’s unlikely that Mary and Joseph saw or heard the Heavenly Chorus, they were indoors, dealing with other stuff being away from home and even its meager comforts. They later seem to be perplexed by Jesus’ ministry as though they had not seen and heard the Choir Invisible. Forget the rosy glow of oil lamps on the Christmas cards, they could set the whole place up in flames and smoke. Life is not a Christmas Card it’s more like Good Friday most of the time, as we struggle against the trials and tribulations of life.
And perhaps that’s the point, life is a struggle and we need someone to get us out of the mess. That’s where Jesus comes in. Unfortunately the forces of Evil still hold the world hostage, promoting discontent among individuals, families, groups, nations, ideologies and religions. And the only way to get those things out of our way to freedom and peace is by struggle. Daniel prophesys about the final struggle. And struggle it must be, there can be no compromise with Evil. But don’t despair the result has already been determined. The Archangel Michael will lead the spiritual forces that will defeat Evil. And Jesus will redeem us from all that was not right that we did under the forces of Evil. His sacrifice on the Cross ensures that. We don’t repeat His sacrifice during Communion, no need Jesus did it once and for all that was all that was needed. What we do do is remember His sacrifice as He instructed us. But still it will be a rough row to hoe, as Jesus says we will go through Birth Pangs as the Kingdom of God takes over this world.
We can put ourselves in the place of the disciples. They saw great seemingly indestructible buildings. The Temple was an awesome place, walls and columns rising higher than any they had seen before. The whole place elaborately decorated with carvings and colour so these things must surely be preserved. We see what look like great indestructible structures too. Structures of societies, governments and institutions, cleverly designed and beautifully decorated but degenerate on the inside, not giving a fig for the suffering of this world, which just keeps on grinding people down. The heart breaking pictures we see of children in Yemen are not just pictures but real people, infants born into a world where Power doesn’t care, it is Evil Power and we seem unable to stop it. There will come a day though as Jesus says when all those Evil Powers will come tumbling down not one left upon another.
Like Peter, James, John and Andrew we have limited resources, but they went out and started to change the world, if they could, we can too. Nothing except for God is indestructible. Evil has built in weaknesses like those Temple stones and all the great buildings of the past which have been shaken by human forces and earthquakes. We can generate both by prayer ! Our prayers work and can find the weaknesses of the inhuman structures we live under. When we pray to God, God gives Michael a call and says “Get going”.
Although society’s structures seem to be immovable objects, for two thousand years we have been working on changing them, improving them and if that hasn’t worked removing them. It requires work as well as prayer but the power of prayer is enormous because it is backed up by the angels. Many of you in this Church can attest to that, I know I can.
So when will we gain victory over the structures that oppress us? When the Evil one becomes Jesus’ footstool is the short answer.
In our prayers we can adopt the words of the Psalmist. Pray the Psalm asking for God’s protection, shunning all that is wrong, being thankful for all that we have been given and pledging loyalty to God. Then following the Letter to the Hebrews grow our faith, do good works, end oppression and gain a just redemption through the Grace of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Daniel 12:1-3 Psalm 16 Hebrews 10:11-25 Mark 13:1-8