Category: advent 1B

Hiding Baby Jesus

HOMILYSS_Expectancy
Advent 1B
Sunday November 30, 2014, St Petri
Gifts of Christmas – Expectation – Hiding baby Jesus

Isaiah 35:1-10

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.

3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”

5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there, 10 and those the LORD has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

 

The dad in this video expressed the great problem we Christians have with Advent and Christmas –

being devoted to the tradition or routine of it all but not expectant of any real good news that might change us and our relationships for the better;

not really expecting the Prince of Peace to speak, do, act, deepen our faith and change our relationships for the better…

As we do it all diligently the way we are supposed to, somehow baby Jesus gets hidden! Somehow we get lazy.

It is very easy to hide baby Jesus or make him a mere ornament by our lack of expectation and trust that he is who he says he is and he has done the most radical thing the world has ever knows.

It is easy to not expect anything much of Jesus’ powerful word acting upon us as we dice with a community that has replaced the faith core of Christmas with consumer advertising and human centred good feelings.

But he really gets Advent….

The Dad in the video didn’t want Jesus to be a mere tradition or routine or consumer message or an unreal, untouchable, dead ornament – do you?

You see, advent means “arrival.” This season is all about getting ready for the arrival of Good news –
new hope, new faith, new directions – Jesus.

This Christian man knows what the prophets and John the Baptiser knew.

The glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

The most important thing about anything – any season, any situation we find ourselves in, any relationship, any illness, any fear, and celebration, any achievement is seeking Christ.

Will we do this in the Advent and Christmas we share this time around – for real?

Will the way we celebrate the great mystery and ear piercing news that God has become us for us to lift us and empower us to love a dying world speak of him to this community, to our families, to travellers coming to our inn?

But he also understands something else – why God hides himself.
As this Dad hides the baby Jesus from the manger scene and invited the kids to seek Jesus in a hidden place, so, we re-live the story of how God our heavenly Father his himself in the ordinary things of our human life;

How he calls in shepherds, star-gazers, and everyday people like a carpenter and his young wife to be, to find him.

We say to whoever is listening this Advent that God has ventured into our hostility and unbelief in a way that we never would have dreamed up –

he enters our experience in things that don’t seem to
holy, powerful or pleasing.

We prefer our Saviours to be rich, big, famous, powerful in the world’s power, influential, pleasing to the eye…

But this Dad said, “He entered the world quietly”.

God enters into the world he created that is now fatally flawed.

Advent news is that he has arrived here.
The King of love, the Prince of peace, the Saviour, the world changer is here in the mess and the fear;

He is with the world in the grief and tragedy of a young Aussie Cricketer shockingly struck down far too young, a beautiful young baptised and loved child of God who belongs here struggling for life with a family waiting on the Lord to bring her back,  in the best efforts of his people to organise themselves and make decisions that help us partner with the Saviour as he continues to go about his mission to bring his love and hope to this community through us.

Because Jesus hides himself in our humanness, in our ordinary, in our prayers, singing, his holy Word, his gifts of grace….we then are called to seek him out in those things.

You are being called again this time around to “find the baby Jesus”

Expectation again builds among us. It is Advent. Christmas is coming.

Jesus is hiding himself in your ordinary.

Jesus is hiding himself so that seeking is required by those who have their imagination, their inquisitiveness, their need, their longing for light quenched again by the greatest gift anyone could ever receive –

the gift of undeserved love and favour from the one who has ever authority to condemn us for our obvious sin.

AND WHICH JESUS DO YOU SEEK? WHICH JESUS WILL WE HELP THEM FIND?
Christmas consumer ornamental Jesus or the real one?

There was a woman named Charlotte who ran a Christian preschool.

She bought a plush Jesus toy. He was happy and smiling and all squishy;
The way a cuddly toy should be. Some of the parents objected. They thought it was “inappropriate.”

Charlotte didn’t hesitate. She knew the question she needed to ask.

She asked “Which Jesus do you want your kids to know? The breakable Jesus on the high shelf who’s always looking down on them OR the Jesus who’s huggable and sits with them on the
comfy couch, the one they can talk to, the one that comforts them when they’re hurt, the one they tell all their secrets.

Which Jesus are we actually expecting at Advent?
The one who plays fun games with us and brings us life, or the one who sits on the shelf until it’s time to go back in the box?

Friends, let’s not leave Jesus on the shelf, out of reach, too precious to play with…. That would be hiding the radical life-giving news that God is Immanuel – with us, for us.

Let’s not put Jesus in the box of 21st century consumer Christmas paraphernalia either. We know him.

We need his voice in the ordinary that is us.

Expect him again. You can because he says so.

To us a Son has been given.

He will be present with all his gifts to give.

Set your heart on seeking the hidden Jesus who may be hidden in the ordinary and unexpected things but no less present.

His presence is balm for the damaged soul,
light for the darkened mind,
deep comfort and a return to hope in the tragedy
hope for the despairing soul,
closeness for the one feeling far away from God’s good gifts.

Expect him again this Advent.

Amen

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Talk about the traditions/customs you enjoy at Christmas or how Christmas was done in your house growing up.

Reflect on what’s good about those customs and traditions.

Reflect on this great problem we have as followers of jesus to lose him in Christmas rather then find him! How do we lose him? What takes over the gospel of Jesus? What replace it? How do we let that happen?

Reflect on how we can celebrate the birth of the Saviour of all people in ways that help others see his good news for them? What might need to change. What could stay the same?

Read those beautiful words from Isaiah 40:1-11. make a list of the links you make to Jesus in these words that foretold his arrival. How does Jesus fulfill all these wonderful things in his life, suffering, death and rising? Share a few thoughts…

Reflect on this mystery of God the Almighty creator choosing to work in the ordinary human things – like a baby feeding in a shed, a young girl scared and in a strange place (Mary), a young man unsure of what the right thing to do would be (Joseph), the “outcast” kind of people responding in faith (Shepherds), strangers in a strange land looking for guidance in the stars (those Easter travellers).

Why do you think God chose to work in the ordinary people?

Why do you think he still chooses to work through the spoken word, the sacraments, the prayers of people, the acts of human service, one to another?

PRAY

Lord Jesus, speak to my friends and family this Advent and Christmas and use me and all we do as a family and as a church to tell them that you truly are in the world wanting the best for the world – ready to forgive, ready to call, ready to enlighten minds and inspire people’s hearts with very good news that bring everyday people real hope in any situation. Amen.

 

Wait

Sermon

Advent 1
Service of Nine Words,
Ocean Forest
Sunday November 27, 2011.

Wait

Friends, every year we run into this Advent theme of waiting and every year this grand vision of Isaiah appears on our horizon to reassure us that there is a grand plan in all of the goings on of our life and our church.

This picture of God’s enduring reality that is meant to carry us through whatever we are experiencing, particularly doubt, fear ad anxiety about our future is beautiful and needed.

I wonder whether this Advent of all of the last 8 here at Ocean Forest is the most full of  these  realities of fear, doubt and anxiety about waiting and pondering what is going to happen to us.

I feel this fear and uncertainty as I pull away from you and feel your sadness and anxiety. I sense that you sense that you are now going to be waiting in a way you have never waited before as a congregation of followers of Jesus.

When will we be able to organise ourselves to do what we need to do and call another pastor to come and lead us? When will another Pastor come and live with us and lead us? When will we feel like we are “normal” again as the new year begins and a pastor joins us and we pick up where we have left off before this strange time of loss and waiting came upon us?
All very expected questions and very human feelings attached to these questions about how things will be.
It always amazes me that these beautiful words of hope from Isaiah were spoken into a situation full of doubt and fear. These words of God were spoken into a situation of being totally cut off from what had been. These words were spoken to a community in forced exile from their home land. They had lost it all, not unlike those families who have lost it all in Margaret River.
These words speak into complete loss – Loss of home, income, status, identity and faith community. God’s people are in a hostile and foreign place that is eating away at their hope in a gracious and faithful God.
Where is the God of those great and mighty acts of salvation and love? Where is Moses? Where is the sea parting and the enemy dying? Where is hope and faith and future and peace and belonging and life as God promises?
These are the human questions we ask of each other, the church and the Lord and they are questions meant to be asked with a view to hearing a response.
For God’s people, there is questioning and there is listening. Sometime I wonder whether we do all the questioning but can’t seem to do the listening. The questioning of God’s presence and faithfulness gives us something to talk about. The listening takes our own words away and requires an open heart and a still mouth with big ears – and of course, PATIENCE.
Can we hear the still small voice of God now….
1 The desert and the parched land you are pondering now will be glad;
the wilderness of no pastor, little music and sense of well-being will rejoice and blossom again.

These worrying days will burst into bloom at the right time; You will eventually shout for joy at hat God has done for you. You will see a glimpse of the glory of the LORD, the splendour of our God. To troubled people God then calls for a response in these Advent days of waiting:

3 Strengthen those feeble hands and steady those knees that give way; (not just your own)
4 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear; your God will come and deliver.

Isaiah was sure against all insecurity. he was form against all wavering and doubting. So am I. The Lord will deliver and in the meantime, he will shape you individually and together in ways that have never happened for us here. We are in new ground again – but it is God’s ground.

I call you with Isaiah to be there for each other. Say things to each other. Say things that encourage and build up like never before and in new ways. God will be in your speaking and doing. This is his promise today.

Amazingly, through this trusting and encouraging and doing good things for each other, your eyes will be opened to new things. Your blindness to God’s presence in your life will be taken away and life will look different when the new road is in place ahead.


5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

There is a new road ahead for this congregation in mission. There is no getting around it now. But again, it is God’s construction. It is a people road and we are all people under construction.

             8 And a highway will be there;
          it will be called the Way of Holiness;
          it will be for those who walk on that Way.

But only the redeemed will walk there,
10 and those the LORD has rescued will return.

This road of the next months is ours and it is the Lord’s and it will be a means through which he affirms in you your “set apartness”, your “specialness,” as his uniquely gifted and faithful people in this place.

Even now we can at least imagine the end of this new road of faith in Jesus. Isaiah does. We can too… 
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away. 
 

 
Wait by questioning
Wait by listening
Wait by speaking encouraging words to each other.
Wait by practicing patience: the patience of faith; a trusting patience that the road is the Lord’s and he has placed you on it – you who are holy and blameless in his sight through your baptism and through the Living Word, Jesus Christ that you serve and love.