What follows is my sermon from presiding and preaching at an Advent Eucharist in Landrake Methodist Chapel today. If I had one, I would have worn a pink stole. Alas, this was not possible, but there is pink on the cardigan I’m wearing. The readings: Isaiah 35.1-10; James 5.7-10; Matthew 11.2-11.
Coming Lord, draw near to us, as we meditate upon your Word, that we might once again be lit by the advent of your Light within us. Amen. It’s near, It’s oh, so near! In some traditions of the Church today is a day for wearing the pink of rejoicing and joyfulness rather than Advent’s more usual purple of preparation and penitence. For a corner has been turned, and the end of this season of looking forward to what has been and remembering what is to come is now in sight. There are now less doors closed than open on Advent calendars. We have reached the top of the hill and on the clouds of the horizon is a soft, pink glow, telling us of a sun about to rise in the East. So, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. It’s near, but it’s not yet here. Now is the time when patience is needed. Now is the time when it is tempting, oh, so tempting, to give in, to break those last few doors open and eat all the chocolates, or make all the Lego models (in my case, anyway). This is the time when it’s tempting to run rejoicing down the hill, and waste all our strength on the journey rather than on the joyful celebration to come! In a time of constant “Now, now, now,” we are called to observe a time of waiting. The light will come, both as a flickering candle of life in a dark and humble outhouse, and in the blazing glory of a golden sun. But not yet. And just as we have to wait before the rejoicing of Christmas, as we have to wait for the pleasure of giving gifts in remembrance of God’s giving of Godself in Christ, so we are waiting for that other coming, that second coming, in which Christ’s light will blaze through the world, a world transformed into a place of opened eyes, and of unstopped ears, of the lame leaping, and of the speechless singing, of waters breaking forth in the wilderness and of streams appearing in the desert. So strengthen your hearts, for the Lord is near. And strengthen them also for in waiting there is work. The disciples of the man who came from God, the one called John, ask Jesus, the man who is at one with God, “Are you he who is to come?” And Jesus’ answer? Look around you. Can we, who are called to be Christ in the world, answer similarly? Where are the blind who have received sight, the lame who now walk, the lepers who have been cleansed, the deaf who now hear, the dead who are now alive, the poor to whom the good news has been brought? Are we those people? If we are, do we witness in our words, our actions, our whole lives, to the joyful transformative power of God at work? Are we the agents of God? If we are, do we point to what it is we are doing, the transformative effect God is having through us, rejoicing, not for our sake or our glory, but for the sake of the Kingdom and the glory of God? So strengthen your hearts, for the Lord is near. And strengthen them because in the waiting, and in the working, in the remembering and in the looking forward, between what was, and what will be, there too is God. Whatever the challenges of life, whether it is sorrow when we are asked for joy, or anxiety when we are asked for patience, or tiredness when we are asked for effort, God reaches out to us, and offers us strength. God’s reaching out to us in Christ, is not simply something we look back to, or something we look forward to, but something now. Whether it is through the breaking of bread, the speaking of an encouraging word, or the reaching out of a helping hand, God reaches out to us, even when he seems far off. We wait, and we work. We look forward to what has been and we remember what is to come. And we do so joyfully rejoicing for as we strengthen our hearts it is God’s own strength we may rely on, as God draws near to us. Amen.