Advent Sunday (Isa 52: 7-10, Romans 10: 12-18, Matt 4: 18 -22)
As we mark St Andrew’s day, we remember one who gave his life to share Christ’s message with the world.
And what shall our message be, this Advent Sunday?
The world doesn’t need the church to tell it that it's nearly Christmas - every advertisement is shouting it at us, each shop is crammed with tinsel and trimmings, and tomorrow we get to start opening our Advent calendars.
But what the world does need us to tell them is...what? What shall our message be?
Well, today is also ‘buy nothing day’ – an international attempt to make people stop and think about how materialistic and greedy they – and therefore their celebrations of Christmas – have become.
But before you either nod vigourously at me because you don’t want to be greedy, or stop listening because you’d planned to do some Christmas shopping this afternoon – let me say that I don’t think the church is here to tell the world to be less materialistic.
Christmas – or at least the coming of Christ – is all about the material. God with us – in the stuff of life, up to his neck in straw and all the mess and business of our world - is an event of the most amazing materialism. We are not true to the coming of Christ if we say that God wants us to abandon the material in favour of the spiritual – because Jesus Christ did precisely the opposite.
So our message cannot be ‘abandon the material’ but ‘look for God in the material, and celebrate the coming of God through it’.
Yet if this is our message, we had better be careful, as I don’t think the world needs the church to tell it to ‘eat, drink and be merry’!
What else can our message be? If we say 'the Lord is coming' we will see some people immediately write us off as the sort of messengers who want to walk round with a sandwich board which says 'the end of the world is nigh'. Ours is not a message of doom and gloom, but of hope and peace. If our message is to be ‘Christ is coming’ we need to explain what this means – what it meant 2000 years ago, what is has meant to us and what it might mean to a waiting world.
The coming of Christ for Andrew meant a new direction in life – following Jesus, leaving his nets and learning what on earth Jesus meant when he told his new friends they would ‘fish for people’.
Andrew followed Jesus, and saw in his life the promises of Isaiah fulfilled – that ‘God would bare his arm, and that all nations would see the salvation of God’. As Andrew looked at Christ he saw God in the material of life, touching it and healing it and making life whole again.
For Andrew, to follow Jesus meant to recognize the love of God in his life, changing the world for the better. For us, following Jesus means just the same – recognizing that God with us in Jesus, made a material fact in the birth of a baby 2000 years ago, is a living truth today and forever.
Our message is vital - and the world needs it now more than ever – it is ‘God is with us’. God cares for this world he made, and is determined to live amongst us.
Of course our message is more than what we say - it is how we live and how we treat people.
If our following Jesus has taught us something about who he is and what his coming means, we need to share this with our neighbours somehow.
This advent, we need to share with others words of hope, or joy, of love. We need to be living proof that the Christ who came to Bethlehem still comes into the hearts and lives of all those who need him.
I can’t do better than the words of John Betjeman:
We need to show
‘That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in bread and wine’.
Take this holy sacrament to your comfort, and be ready to share its truth with all you meet this Advent
To God’s praise and glory. Amen.