St John the Baptist Parish Church

Where a warm welcome awaits you

Sunday Sermons

Sunday 3rd December 2017 - Advent 1

Theme: “Come Lord Jesus”

Readings: Isaiah 62:1-9

                 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

                 Mark 13:24-37

I thought that my £4.99 Divine Chocolate Nativity Advent Calendar was the height of indulgence. But now I discover that chocolate advent calendars are so “last season”. Times have moved on. There is now a vast range of novelity advent calendars marketed at the more mature end of the consumer market. You can buy advent calendars containing make up, fine wine, gin, tequila, or even rare whiskies for the mere snip of £10,000. Or, at the more budget end of the market, you could purchase a pork scratching advent calendar, or one from Greggs bakery, who have hit the headlines because of their blasphemous advertising. Elevating a sausage roll to the position of God incarnate in a crib scene, or even on a human level, replacing a Jewish infant with a pork sausage really wasn’t too clever. And it didn’t even look that appetising.

So here we are again in the mist of the annual pre-Christmas, media fuelled, consumer frenzy, which seems to get worse every year, despite persistent levels of national debt and frozen wages. The Western world still looks to material goods to solve all its ills. Isaiah laments, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” All around him, Isaiah sees sin and wickedness, exploitation, greed and destruction. The same still holds today of course. It is a sobering reminder that Advent is in fact, like Lent, a penitential season in the Church Calendar; a time for self-examination, as we prepare to greet the coming messiah.

The apocalyptic passage in Mark’s gospel, describing the end times, is one to bring us up short as well, especially in the light Donald Trump’s promise to “take care” of the situation in North Korea, which could entail destroying them. We are all in a state of heightened tension as Jesus warns us to be vigilant. But the point of such texts in scripture is not for us to point to current world situations and say “that must be it”. The point is to focus our attention of Christ and his kingdom.

Advent stirs up a longing for the all-powerful and mysterious God to break through into the chaos of our messed-up world.

The great German theologian Karl Rahner asked the rhetorical question why during Advent we pray “Come Lord Jesus” when Jesus has already come. His answer is that the truth of Jesus’ first coming still needs to spread throughout the whole creation.  

Rahner writes:

Slowly I am understanding once again... you are still in the process of coming, and your appearance in the form of a servant is the beginning of your coming, which brings redemption from the servitude you took on.... It is not actually that you have come; you are still coming. From your becoming human till the fullness of this time is only the twinkle of an eye...

...only one single time remains in this world: your advent. And when this last day comes to its end, there will be no more time, but just you in your eternity.

People say that you will come again. That is true. But it is not really “again”, since you in your being human, a being that you have taken eternally to yourself as your own, have never left us. It is just that this coming must happen more and more, just that it must become more and more evident what has already begun in the ground of all that exists... behold you are coming. This is neither past nor future, but present – a present that is just still filling itself out. It is still the one hour of your coming; and when this hour has come to an end, we will also know from experience that you have really come.

God’s self-gift has irrevocably begun. God is not distant, God knows our world; God is present and engaged in it. But we long that all may recognise the God in whom we have our being.

The promise of scripture is that one day there will be salvation, ultimate deliverance from sin and suffering for a damaged world, but first comes judgement. Jesus comes to put into effect the judgement and deliverance that God plans for the world.

“God is faithful”, St Paul reminds us, “by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (1 Cor 1:9)

What can we do this Advent to make the presence of Christ a reality in our lives and in the world that we live in?

What can we do to keep ourselves focused upon him, whilst our society fast tracks to an early celebration of Yule Tide?

You could read a book of Advent reflections. There is a fair range now on the Christian market. Quench no doubt have a stock or there may be something in the church library, or even sitting on your bookshelf at home or someone else’s.

You could get Advent off to a peaceful and contemplative start by coming to our Taizé service this evening. As well as Taizé chants, Advent is a good season for hymns, so I recommend paying extra attention to what we sing in our morning worship.

You may like to light an advent candle daily – Carol may still have some to sell at our Advent Fair. Then there are those fair-trade nativity advent calendars to open, and I suggest doing so mindfully, perhaps praying at the same time for those in our world who long for peace and justice.

The important thing is to connect with God on a daily basis, however that works best for you, so that we might sense God’s presence in our lives and see the world through God’s eyes.

I’ll conclude with a traditional Celtic poem, which picks up on Advent themes and speaks of God’s constant abiding with us.

Then I will allow a minute’s silence at the end.

God to enfold me,

God to surround me,

God in my speaking,

God in my thinking.

God in my sleeping,

God in my waking

God in my watching,

God in my hoping.

God in my life,

God in my lips,

God in my soul,

God in my heart.

God in my sufficing,

God in  my slumber,

God in mine ever-living soul,

God in mine eternity.

Silence.....

Amen.

Rev Lisa Cornwell