The Pas Advent 1
27 November 2016
#1 Genesis 3.1-20
#4 Jeremiah 31.31-34
#7 Micah 6.6-8
#9 Baruch 4.36-5.9
#14 Luke 1.5-25
#16 John 1.1-14
God of peace, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; so that on the last day, when your Son Jesus shall come again to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to eternal life; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I think the readings, for today, sums up humanity’s relationship with God, since the fall from Grace, since the forbidden fruit was eaten in the Garden.
The readings point out the love/hate relationship we’ve had with God since that momentous event at the dawn of time. But they also point out God’s attempts to bring us home, to become an active part of our lives, to help us to anticipate the return of Christ as our Lord and King.
Yet at the same time, for all of our stubbornness our attempts to be God in God’s place, God hasn’t left us to our own devices. The readings, today, point to God’s efforts to bring us home, to encourage us to choose to return to God, to embrace the light.
John tells us: “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1:1-5)
Every day we are aware that, God doesn’t turn away from us. Rather God continues repeatedly to encourage us to turn to God, rely upon God in all decisions, and to embrace God in our every action and word.
Throughout human history, throughout our lives, God continues to walk with the people, and desires to be an active participant of their lives, as he still desires, today, to be an active participant in our lives.
Yet, we continue to push God away in favour of the new, the shiny, the different that comes our way. We continue to sin, and are afraid of the retribution God will ask of us to be reinstated to God’s heart and have God live in our lives.
In the reading from Jeremiah, we hear God say “They broke my covenant.” God says, and we do, do this; the world continues to intrude on our relationship with God, like a jealous lover; and so, we put God aside and we cater to the whims and the whimsies of the world around us.
This has been humanity’s habit since the beginning, since the serpent took us out for lunch and stiffed us with the bill!
I wonder if we should call God ‘the eternal optimist’. Because for as long as we have been pushing God away, God still desires to come to us, to embrace us as a mother hen gathers her chicks. (Lk 13:34)
God desires to be in a relationship with us that is mutual and beneficial to both, yet, we, like the passage from Micah, treat a relationship with God like a child choosing their own punishment.
“6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic 6:6-8)
Where God desires love, we fear God’s retribution, whether from us or for us. Where God desires to be first in our lives, we place ourselves centre stage.
Where God encourages us to confess so that we are able to be forgiven, we fear that God’s love is more that we can bear.
Yet, God never leaves us. God never abandons us, although it may appear like this when we intentionally turn our backs on God.
Whatever it is that draws us from God’s love, when we choose to return to God, when we open our lives to God’s forgiveness and absolution, it’s like chicks returning to the mother hen.
Have you ever watched a mother bird with her chicks? It’s a beautiful sight.
Before the chicks are born, she lovingly sits on that nest of eggs, sacrificing her own wellbeing to ensure that the eggs get the best chance of a safe and healthy start in the world.
Once hatched, she feeds them, cares for them, and watches them venture out from the nest, from the safety of her body. She constantly watches over them, and although she wants to keep them safe, she knows that they need to explore the world around them.
Yet, the moment there is a predator, or the shadow of a predator, or the scent of a predator is detected, without thinking, she reacts, she gathers the chicks together, and hides them under her body.
In the face of danger to the chicks, the mother hen is always ready to sacrifice her life for the life and safety of her chicks.
On the other hand, if one of the chicks goes astray, the mother hen will search and search and search, dragging the rest of the chicks with her as she looks for this one ‘lost soul.’
In Luke 13, Jesus laments over Jerusalem over us and our stubbornness. He says: “34 ‘how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Lk 13:34b-35)
Throughout the readings, throughout our lives, we see God’s yearning for us to welcome God into the daily events of our lives. We see God yearning for us to lay aside the sins of our lives and embrace the love of God, every day.
We see Jesus words, and yet, when we approach God, we often have the same reply on our lips as we see from Micah’s words, for today – the desire to do the hard task, the impossible chores to regain God’s love, God’s favour.
Yet, Micah tells us: “8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic 6:8)
This is it, this is the path that lies before us. This is the journey into the unknown that we don’t know where we will wind up, because God is leading the way.
Yet, all the people wanted to know how many lines they would be required to write, what is the penalty for their sins, should they decide to return to God. It seems improbably that all God asks of us is to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”
So, here we are, once more needing to remember that God only wants to be a part of our lives. That the path to allowing God to be the God of our hearts is through confession, forgiveness, and receiving God’s absolution.
Today we find ourselves, once more, at the beginning of Advent, at the beginning of a new liturgical year.
In Advent, we await the coming of the Christ, we await the coming of Jesus our King, at the same time, we prepare for the birth of the Christ child.
While Micah shows us the human reaction to God’s offer of forgiveness, we have to remember that the child who is born at Christmas is the embodiment of love. We have to remember that John reminds us: “5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Light not only in the world, but in our hearts, as well, every day.