Right before our eyes – Advent 3 A 2010

 

Whatever else we make of this time of year,

it seems a time when are eyes are destined to deceive us.

Nothing is as it appears – the streets shine with a technicolour brilliance

the stores are full of (relatively) happy people –

life is full and rich and busy – and yet…

 

We are aware of something simmering,

just below the surface of the usual Christmas scene.

There is an anxiety, among people, about the state of things –

jobs are scarce – money is tight – living is expensive,

and the news is full of stories of death and destruction – stories that are both local and global

 

In a common anxiety, we huddle ’round our Christmas celebrations in hope,

and ask questions of the world – questions that sound vaguely familiar:

Is this as good as it gets? Isn’t there a better way?

Is it possible that we are getting things wrong?

 

The answers we seek are slow in coming, aren’t they.

They answers don’t come, because we are slow to understand

that our constant efforts to “change the world”

by our own power/the force of our considerable will,

are never going to do the trick.

No amount of ‘retail therapy’ or ‘self-satisfaction’ can ease the anxieties that plague us.

 

And this is not a 21st century problem.

Once again we discover the strange significance of Scripture –

texts that seem to reflect our current dilemma through an ancient formula.

 

Matthew’s gospel traces this anxiety back to the time of the Roman occupation of Palestine;

prophets and preachers, alarmed by the current state of the world,

confronted people with God’s alternative –

and the people were intrigued –

John drew huge crowds – then Jesus drew bigger crowds.

 

John paid with prison time (and later, with his head)

and the eager, anxious folks – sensing that some sensational change was in the wind

come to Jesus for answers – answers that just weren’t coming as quickly as they had hoped.

 

It is some comfort to me – and should be some comfort for all of us –

that Jesus’ challenge has not changed over the centuries:

( he does try to determine how high their hopes are

“What did you expect to see in John…?” he asks,

and by extension he seeks to discover what we expected of Messiah.)

 

He tries to get them to see the obvious:

“What have you witnessed with your own eyes?” he says,

implying that the answers are right in front of us,

if we would learn to trust the senses God gave us.

 

 

We gather together in worship because we claim to be different from those

who are terrified by the way life hurtles out of control –

but we have our own fears;

our hope has been shattered by the reality

of shrinking communities, thinning congregations and concerns over our ability to meet the budget.

And, because of our heritage – because of who we are –

we come with questions of Jesus – the innocent, adorable Christ-child:

Are you the one to come, or should we wait for another? –

that’s a Christmas question, and still, Jesus offers the only possible answer:

“Go and report what you see with your own eyes: ordinary behaviours are overturned:

“the blind see – the lame walk – the poor have good news brought to them.”

 

so here in the midst of our holiday preparation

with the troubles of the world threatening to overwhelm us –

we gather for another worship service and I ask you: what did you come to see?

 

What were you looking for when you made up your mind to spend an hour in church?

You may well say that it is because you are curious;

you want to know more about the promises of God that you have heard about all your life

you may have experienced something startling in your life

that has caused you to ask questions like those that I mentioned earlier.

 

What did you come to see – or hear…

are you looking for hope – for peace –

for something that will help you make sense

of the senseless stuff that surrounds us?

So am I –

and I can only offer you Jesus challenge from Matthew’s gospel:

what do your eyes tell you about hope, from within this community of faith?

 

What does your heart say of the hope that God offered us by choosing to live among us in Jesus?

What can we say of hope as witnesses to that most impossible of acts –

the act of love that put death in the grave…?

We have had a chance to see the good work done in the name of Christ…

we can confess the good that God has done in us because of our faith in Christ;

because of time spent in worship,

in the company of those who believe with us,

struggle with us, mourn with us, learn with us

because we walk this road with the Risen Christ – a child no longer.

 

Whatever else you make of this time of year – know that together,

in this worshipping community and beyond it,

we have the freedom to ask our questions; to reflect on the things that really matter –

to consider again the evidence that is always before our eyes:

God reigns. Jesus lives. And God’s Spirit seeks to send us into a world of uncertainty

with a message of hope that cannot fail. Amen

 

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