Friday, 30 November 2012

The days are surely coming…

Jeremiah 33: 14-16
Luke 21: 25-36 

Today is Advent Sunday. Christmas really is coming. Four more Sundays to go…23 more days…love it or loathe it, Christmas is coming and it will soon be time to celebrate the coming of Jesus. So it’s time to get ready to celebrate.

But what are we celebrating? An event of 2000 years ago, that still has some attraction to us? A chance to meet up with family & friends and have a holiday?

Or dare we actually hope for something new to happen – for God to act here and now?

Jeremiah prophecies that the day will come – the day will surely come when God will cause a branch of David to spring up : “and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety”.

God does not just promise a king, he promises a king whose kingdom, whose rule, will mean peace and justice and a new world order. God’s people have to wait and hope that in all the mess of their lives – as other world powers battle around them and invade them, and oppress them, God will come and sort it out.

And so they wait. And hope. And trust in God. 

And when Jesus is born, the angels will sing about peace on earth, goodwill to all people – and everything will change forever.

Or will it? Jesus is born and after a flurry of birth stories & one story of going missing in childhood, everything will go quiet for 20 years or so until Jesus begins his ministry.

Then, perhaps God will act, will overthrow the Romans, will bring peace and stability and God’s reign will surely come.

But those 3 years of Jesus’ ministry will end not in peace & justice, but in injustice and crucifixion and death. Except that even that will not be the end, but will be the gateway to resurrection and new life and the promise of a new creation. So now will God bring in the kingdom for his battered creation? Or must God’s people continue to wait?

Advent serves to remind us that in Jesus our hope is set alight – we are given a glimpse of what God’s rule will look like – the lame shall dance, the deaf shall hear, love and peace & justice will overflow like wine at a wedding… and yet the kingdom is still to be hoped for in its entirety.

The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was the start of what God promises, but still we wait in hope.
I’m reminded of the words of Churchill after the battle of El Alamein “this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.

So this Advent, we need to hear the prophet’s message – God will come, in Jesus. And we can celebrate in this bread and wine the presence of the risen Lord with us, strengthening and feeding our hope.

But we also need to be sure, this Advent, that God has not finished coming – that our world is not yet the kingdom of God.

We hardly need reminding that our world is not God’s kingdom – wars, disasters, misery, fear…
Jesus is clear that his coming has not swept all this away at a stroke. 

So in Like’s gospel we heard him warn his followers “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”.

This sounds a bit like our world, doesn’t it? A mess, if we’re honest, not much like God’s rule at all. But we remain hopeful because Jesus makes it clear that these terrible things don’t mean that God isn’t with us, or that Jesus wasn’t God’s son, it is a sign to us that God’s kingdom has not finished coming – it is not here fully yet, but it will surely come,

Advent tells us of the coming of God and renews our hope that one day God will come and finish making all things new.

He may come to us individually and lift us to be with him – as we are perfected in death – or we may be among those who are living when God will finally fold up this earth of ours and bring the end of all things we know. But he will come, he will surely come, and when the end comes there will be the perfect peace and justice and eternal life for which we long and we hope.

This is the Advent hope, and this is what we celebrate in the coming of Jesus Christ.

So celebrate God with us – in Jesus, in bread & wine & in the glorious end which will surely come. Amen.

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