Hold on – for God is coming! Sermon Advent 2 – A Voice Cries out in the wilderness

John the Baptist cried out in the wilderness – ‘prepare the way for the Lord!’

500 years earlier, in a context of giving comfort to the people who were hurting, Isaiah cried out, prepare the way for the Lord. He is coming, make ready.

The context in each case was a people in pain. Isaiah’s people were living in exile in Babylon, lost from their land, thinking that they were lost from their God. John’s people were living under Roman occupation and longing for the freedom to live as they understood God had asked them to.

And are we without fear? Of course not. We all have things to fear. And all around us we hear people saying, ‘where was God when………………….?’ I live in Merthyr Vale and have a house in Aberfan and it’s an undercurrent in the village, ‘where was God when the mountain fell on our children?’ but for each of us as individuals it might be a personal disaster, it might be the loss of a loved one, it might be the birth of a disabled child. It is part of the human psyche to cry out, ‘where was God when I/ when we /my people were hurting?’

This from the internet yesterday, an advent program that I’m following has Mary say:
‘Fearful souls…we who walk in darkness, who live in distress…a great light is coming. Hold on. Hold on. Please.’

It called to mind my early journeys in London, where tube stations often have names that don’t sound like stations, ‘monument’, ‘bank’. So I typed in my reply:
In the London Underground, as the train careers on round bends rocking from side to side; I hold on, hanging for dear life to a yellow pole that provides the only stability in a crazy world. Hold on, and wait for the peace of arrival at the only station worth arriving at………….. Stable, Bethlehem.

Hold on for God is coming.

The psalms represent the fear so well, over and over again they ask ‘where are you God, when I am hurting, when my people are fearful, when my children are in pain? And we can turn to Isaiah saying ‘Comfort, o comfort my people’ and promising us a shepherd who will feed the Lord’s flock and comfort his children.

Hold on for God is coming.

And when our material well-being is threatened – do we not feel despair? When we are unemployed or fear that possibility, when our loved ones lose their employment, when we read in the papers that in some areas the vast majority of people under 25 can’t get jobs and we worry about our children, our grandchildren, even our great-grandchildren. How will they get a start in life?

I came across this poem years ago and thought it should be written on the dole office wall instead of the usual graffiti. It was written by TS Eliot as part of a play about the building of a church. This is the song of the unemployed, heard in the distance by the builders:
No man has hired us
With pocketed hands
And lowered faces
We stand about in open spaces
And shiver in unlit rooms.
Only the wind moves
Over empty fields, untilled
Where the plough rests, at an angle
To the furrow. In this land
There shall be one cigarette to two men,
To two women one half pint of bitter
Ale. In this land
No man has hired us.
Our life is unwelcome, our death
Unmentioned in The Times.

He’s talking about despair – a despair that we may feel ourselves, but certainly, we can’t help noticing it among those around us

But we must remember –

Hold on – for God is coming!

And when we see everyone rushing around buying in stuff that they will say is all about preparing for Christmas – that is indeed a cause for despair since for so many they seem to have forgotten that Christmas is about God, who is coming, in person, as a mere child to be with us. To know our pain with us. To cry with us, ‘my God, why have you forsaken me? But do not despair, for he comes for us all, for those of us who know he is coming and for those who forget.

He comes to set us free from sin, and if sin is not so much the things we do wrong and more a sign that we have turned away from God, then Christmas as it is celebrated, Christmas as a feast of greed, a feast of shopping, a feast of pretty decorations without Christian meaning then that Christmas may have become sinful – not wrong in itself but a symptom of a turning away from God.

But we, we who watch and wonder what and how we can help those we see enmeshed in the pains, and struggles of the world, we must hold on for he is coming.

He who will be born in the stable at Christmas is the very one who Isaiah spoke of who ‘will feed his flock like a shepherd; will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.’ He, who will be for us in a very short time a little child in a cradle is the same who John the Baptist felt unworthy to untie his sandals. He is the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit. And he has called every one of us as witness to the world. For him we must..

Hold on – for God is coming!

Amen

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Posted on December 4, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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