God our healer, whose mercy is like a refining fire, touch us with your judgement, and comfort us with your tenderness, that being comforted by you, we may reach out to a troubled world.
Through Jesus Christ Our Lord
This week we are called out to rejoice at the imminent birth of the Messiah in our scripture readings. Are you ready or not in the mood yet to be re-vitalised. This his name is ‘Emmanuel’ [God with us], serves to underlie the case for our joy and expectation.
But yes things in the world are awful, starvation, war, conflict, poverty, Brexit, Donald Trump and so on; but God continually calls us out to face reality, engage with it and transform it, so DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE, JOY, EXPECTATION, PROMISE, that things will eventually turn around again and God’s Kingdom on earth will be evident and triumphant.
In Matthew’s Gospel extract today it begins with the question: Who is John the Baptist, and JB asks who is Jesus? So the Gospel explores faith and unbelief in him, both to the audience / hearers at that time and today.
Who is Jesus for you in 2016 / 2017, as you await news whether we have a new vicar or not later this month. Some things are just beyond our control, we want to get pregnant but we don’t, we want that relationship to work and it doesn’t, we go for a job and we don’t get it, we fail an exam. Then ‘flip’ things go ‘right’ for us and the world and ourselves feel changed / transformed in fact, sorrow and joy, light and darkness and so on.
This question of belief and unbelief is also our fundamental question as human beings and as thinking people with a brain and emotions. Why me? What does it mean? Why now? Can I actually believe and own that?
Then Jesus asks the crowd, who is John the Baptist, and they say ‘Elijah’, who was expected to return from heaven before the Messiah appeared. But both Jesus and John the Baptist are soon to be rejected by their hearers; so these themes of faith and unbelief, blessedness and offence re-occur in the passage of scripture.
The matter of faith which is mentioned here, is that Jesus is the Christ, who has come after Elijah. These things it is explained that God has hidden them from those who do not believe, and God has revealed them to the unexpected / marginalised people, the poor and outcast and rejected, and to those who can hear his voice and understand it’s meaning.
This is in essence a turning point in Matthew’s Gospel. The Kingdom of God has been announced to the people of Israel, by John the Baptist, and by the words, deeds and example of Jesus and his apostles, but it is rejected and unbelief in him is the response.
Do we possess a lively vibrant faith, or is it luke warm, tepid and convenient when nothing else encroaches upon it.If we need inspiration look at the Christians and Muslims in Allepo who are giving up their lives rather than deny their belief and love of God.
Jesus does not say explicitly or directly. “I am the christ” here, but invites John the Baptist to consider what his messengers can see and hear, which weakens back to the Isaiah passage, and also the evident words and deeds of Jesus, this is the only way to come to a living profound embracing faith.
What has brought each of you to faith, week by week; another person, an exceptional situation, a life changing event, a mystical sign. What was it, and has your faith grown stronger since that initial encounter or diminished consequently. Most people swing and experience faith and in faith on occasions, but the important thing is to daily re-present yourself before the Lord, “Here I am I can do no other only this makes sense of my life”
The disciples and the readers and listeners of todays Gospel / you and me, have been given by Jesus, “ears to hear by God” and we are commanded to use this gift of faith and adherence. to live it out in the hard and easy times of our individual lives.
Do you welcome Jesus into your life / or do you run away and hide? Why what are you afraid of, living more openly and fully as a follower and lover of Jesus.
May this Christmas be a time of openness to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, of welcoming God into your heart, mind and life; and in such an intimate encounter welcome others, those closest to you and friends and strangers alike, by so doing transformation will take place in you and our world. We are all one and difference and otherness is not to be feared or shyed away from.
I’d like to end with a poem:
Many of us struggle with how we may think and speak of you in away
that makes sense, in our lives and in our world.
As we struggle, we continue to address you… the ground of our being
the Spirit within in…
For we believe that somehow you give meaning in our lives- we believe
that you are about anything then somehow you are also everything.
And so you are in our unknowing and our searching and our groping
You are in our slowness and our vulnerability; inner anger, envy, and
inner chaos, and in our struggle to be free.
You are part of our impotence
and you are in our empowering.
You are in the emptiness
and also in the filling up.
You are at the roots of despair and brokenness and also the way that
leads to connection.
May this Advent Season and Christmas time assist you in discovering a more profound connectedness and willingness and thrill to invite God into your lives and mine.