First Sunday of Advent – Year C
A season of paradox
Advent is a time of looking forward but it is also a time of contradictions and paradox. It’s a season of hope and excitement for those who look forward to Christmas as a festival to be enjoyed with people they love. It’s a season of hope and excitement for Christians looking forward to celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a time of sorrow and darkness for many who face Christmas for the first time, or the twentieth time, without a loved one at their side. It’s a time of sober reflection and preparation for Christians who also look forward to the time when Christ returns in glory “to judge the living and the dead” and to establish his kingdom which will know no end.
Jesus talks this week about distress among the nations and fearful “natural” events that will shake heaven and earth. These are the signs by which we will know that the Kingdom of God is near and, for Luke, this is a time not of judgment but of redemption, another cause for hope and excitement.
As Jesus speaks of the uncertain, changeable and temporary things of our world he also speaks of the certainties that we can believe in and prepare for. The words of Jesus “will not pass away” and through prayer we will be given the strength to withstand all that threatens our bodies knowing that our souls are redeemed and belong with the glorified Son of Man.
Lord Jesus, as we look forward to celebrating your birth among us give us the wisdom and faith also to prepare for your return so that when that day comes we will be ready to stand before you in your risen glory. Amen.
Second Sunday of Advent – Year C
Then and now
Luke carefully sets his story in its historical context, referring to local, national and international politics. He makes it clear that Jesus lived in the real world, among real people. He also carefully sets his story in the context of God’s dealings with his people, Israel, who now live under the oppression of Rome and an emperor who is worshipped in some places as a god.
The people of Israel long to be set free from fear and oppression, they long for knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins and for the light of a new dawn to shine upon them, guiding them from darkness into the way of peace.
Luke describes how John uses the words of Israel’s prophet, Isaiah, to herald the coming of the One who will answer this longing and to call people to prepare for his appearance among them.
Our world is not so very different. Powerful nations still oppress. Many people of faith live under threat of persecution. Corruption and injustice create inequality among people who are equal in the eyes of God.
We need to hear John’s message every bit as much as the people who heard it two thousand years ago. We are not spectators by the banks of the river. We also have a need for repentance, forgiveness and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to prepare us for the return of our Lord so that we shall see the salvation of God.
Heavenly Father, your prophet, John, calls us to prepare for your coming among us in Jesus. Give us the grace and humility to acknowledge our need for forgiveness and the strength of your Holy Spirit to guide us in the ways of peace and justice. Amen.
Third Sunday of Advent – Year C
What then should we do?
We’ve heard John’s call for repentance in preparation for the coming of the Lord. We’ve been excited by the prophetic words of Isaiah promising justice, peace and freedom. We’ve been warned about wars, earthquakes and other “natural” disasters. These are all big ideas encompassing nations, governments and creation itself. How do we relate those things to our every day life?
In today’s Gospel reading John addresses smaller groups of people and individuals who ask what they should do, specifically, to prepare the way of the Lord. They speak for us who also wait and wonder. John could just as well be talking directly to us, his voice fresh, clear and resounding across the centuries.
He calls us to be generous – to give from what we have in plenty to those who lack the basics.
He calls us to be honest and to act with integrity in our employment and business affairs. We’re not to take advantage of those weaker than ourselves and to accept with thanksgiving the riches that we do have.
When his message gets personal like this, John is not a comforting and reassuring presence. He’s challenging, speaking out against the values of too many of us in this world. If John demands so much of us what will be required by the One who is more powerful than him?
John speaks with “many other exhortations” and in doing so proclaims the good news to the people. It seems you can’t have the one without the other.
Lord Jesus, you call us to lives of loving generosity, honesty, integrity and humility. With the baptism of your Holy Spirit we pray that you will walk alongside us to protect and guide us as we seek to obey that call and to live in fellowship with you. Amen.
Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year C
Mothers and Sons
In this beautiful story so many other stories are woven together against the backdrop of the great story of God’s people Israel. There’s the story of Elizabeth, about to bear a child despite her age and earlier inability to conceive; the story of the youthful Mary whose unborn child is also unexpected and unplanned by his mother; the stories of John, born to be the messenger who prepares the Lord’s way, and Jesus, born to be the Lord whose coming has long been foretold; the stories of Zechariah and Joseph, men and fathers who fade into the background as their sons follow their own destiny.
Today, though, our story centres on the two mothers, women who have such different experiences of bearing sons but who both know that those sons are destined in some way to fulfil God’s purposes for his people. We don’t know if Elizabeth lived to hear John’s voice crying out in the wilderness or to suffer the terrible loss of her son, brutally murdered on Herod’s orders. We do know that Mary lives to see Jesus dying on the cross, to feel the sword pierce her heart but then again to know the joy of his birth into a new resurrection life.
Today is only about the joy, the excitement and the awe of two women whose children, it seems, know each other already and whose faith led them to say “Yes” to God.
All generations will call them both blessed.
Heavenly Father, as Mary and Elizabeth share their joy in the fulfilment of your promises to them, help us to look forward to the fulfilment of your promises to us as once again we prepare to greet the birth of your son into our lives this Christmas. Amen.