Sermon – 27 November 2005

Every year, I hear people begin to moan about it getting earlier and earlier.

It used to be the start of November. Then the end of October. Now, even sooner. The appearance of the first Christmas promotions in the shops.

I’ve tended to join in. Can the retailers not wait?

How often I have remembered with fondness the Advent that I spent in Sweden, where the Christmas stuff does not appear until Advent Sunday, or even better, Lucia Day later in December.

We see the tinsel and the shiny things. We see the gifts and toys and presents. We catch sight of advertising pointing towards Christmas long before we send our first card. And most people groan.

Yet someone reminded me this week that there is another way of thinking about this.

For the truth is, there are people in the retail trade who start getting ready for Christmas in January. There is planning, ordering, manufacturing, marketing. They put a great deal of thought into it. For there is much to be done to get ready.

Those retailers have been working for months to get it all ready in time.

When did you start to get ready for the coming of the King?

For that is what today is all about. If you are not ready to meet with God yet, Advent Sunday is a call to sort things out. To plan, prepare, to wake up, to get ready. For God is on the way.

Firstly this morning, we hear from one of the Isaiah authors. He says, “Oh God, if only you would come and put everything to rights!”

But he says so knowing that God does not act that way.

There has scarcely been a week in my ministry in which I have not heard this Isaiah voice on the lips of someone. “Oh God, put it to rights. Oh God sort out the nations. Oh God, why does it feel so horrible? Why does it feel as though you are mad with me?”

And remember, the Isaiah author knows how bad things can get.

He comes from a community of people who have been exiled. They have been to hell and back. They have been to Babylon and back. Let us not mince words, they have been to Iraq and back. When he cries to heaven for things to be sorted out he cries with knowledge of how bad things can get.

The prophet pleads for an end to the silence of God. Yet perhaps part of the answer lies in listening in to the silence of God and not being angered and frustrated by it.

For God invites us at this time of year to be still and to think. To rest a while and wait. To know silence and quiet and stillness. To awake to get ready. For if we do not awake now and ready ourselves we will be woken for sure by the cries of a child in the Judean night in a few weeks time. Are you ready for him yet?

Is the world ready? Is this muddled, tormented, mixed-up world ready for God? He is coming whether we are ready or not. If the world isn’t fit for God to come, who will make it so? Is it God’s responsibility to sort out the mess?

At the end of this bit of prophecy, we have a hint that it will not be God who sorts it all out. Perhaps, nudged, cajoled, shaped like a piece of clay, it will be us.

“We are the clay, you are the potter, we are the work of your hand.”

As we come close to God, we are shaped by God. As we encounter God we are moulded by God. As we approach God, God changes us.

“Tear the heavens and come down” says the prophet. And God did, in his way, didn’t he?

Being changed by being close to God was what Mark knew all about. We begin reading his gospel today. He has nothing to tell us about Christmas – he knew nothing about it.

He knew Jesus though. We may presume that he knew nothing of stories of Bethlehem – they came some time after his writing. He tells us nothing about Jesus’s origins. He knew Jesus himself. And it made him say – “Look out, wake up, get ready! For God is at hand”.

Mark and the very early Christians who had known Jesus, they lived in the expectation that Jesus was coming back very soon. They thought it was just around the corner. It wasn’t, but their advice holds good. Live as though there is no tomorrow. Sort the world out. Sort yourself out.

You have four weeks to go until Christmastime when Jesus comes as a baby? What will you do to get ready for him?

Pray a bit?

Help others a bit more?


Read a gospel?

Wake up to the possibility that God is knowable after all?

Commit yourself to half an hour’s quiet every day?

You will come close to God if you expect to do so, plan to do so, commit yourself to do so.

When the retailers plan at the start of the year, they do so because they know that something is certain – Christmas is coming and with it a great opportunity to sell their wares.

I tell you today with even greater certainty – your God is coming. And with that news comes an even greater opportunity. The opportunity to get ready for God.

Advent means that God is on the way. Advent is a wake up call. Get ready, get ready for the King is coming. His coming is certain. Lo, he is coming soon.


Speak Your Mind