Sermon Advent Sunday 2019
Sermon preached by Bernard Moss at the 10.45am service.
Don’t you just love it ! There you are somewhat lost in a big city wondering how on earth you can find your way – even with your nose stuck to your I-phone and the navigation app – or like me holding a city map upside down pretending to know what I am looking for..
And desperation sets in – so you ask the next passing stranger for directions and they come up with the old chestnut – ah ! if I were you I wouldn’t start from here – don’t you just love it !!!
Losing our bearings – being unable to find our sense of direction – knowing vaguely where we are heading but not sure how to get there… it’s all a bit disconcerting whether you are in London Manchester, the Potteries or Venice – and especially in Venice …
And sometimes to get our bearings we have to turn round and try to work out where we have come from – once we get that bit clear we can move forward with perhaps some greater degree of confidence.. at least we think we know where we are now, and that helps us find a way forward.
Well I am tempted at this point to say this is what Advent Sunday is all about and then leave it to you to work it out for yourselves but you might feel that you are being short-changed – so let’s explore it a bit further
Because Advent is among other things an opportunity to get our bearings… to check our direction of travel – to be reminded how we have got this far and to check out whether we are heading where we had thought, or even hoped, we were travelling towards. It is, if you like, the image of a big picture moment..
Yes we have to navigate some immediate obstacles … and the demands and needs of our fellow travellers… yes we have to try to avoid culs de sac or catching the wrong bus and then being told that If I were you I wouldn’t start from here – you need to catch a different number bus … We know the hazards only too well, but if we can keep sight of the big picture then it keeps things in perspective.
And in a strange way Advent – which to be honest has its fair share of gloom and doom and a set of lectionary readings that can make your hair stand on end at times… Advent is posing the question
Are we heading in the right direction?
When the world seems so chaotic – where there is so much bitterness and distrust – so much human carnage – so many threats to human wellbeing – so many ways in which people’s dignity and value is undermined or even destroyed – where so many political promises are destined to hit the buffers or take us up tantalising culs de sac – in this bewildering kaleidoscope, we need to take our bearings and check our direction of travel.
Jesus of course was brilliant at doing this – he looked out at the developing political mayhem – he could foresee the damaging fallout and the havoc it could create as the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans drew near… and he delivered a profound sense of redirection – seek you first the kingdom of God – yes the son of man will suffer and will face the chaos of human greed and envy and sinfulness – but the direction of travel has a destination in resurrection where the love of God cannot ever be vanquished.
And the early church was also good at that, for heaven knows they faced their own tumultuous times too – and because they were – as we are – an Easter people and ALLEUIA was their song, they were able to “say our sense of direction has been set by the Lord Jesus and because of the resurrection there will come a moment in God’s good time where that victory will be ultimately celebrated”
Whatever language we use – the second coming and so on – it is all determined by looking back at where we have come from – that Easter day and the Pentecost outpouring… and that gives us hope and a profound sense of direction.
And that’s the message if you like of Advent 2019 – yes it is stark for we live in stark times..
But it is a pointer for us – pointing back to that massive intervention in human life with the gift of Christ to the world and the resurrection power that sprang from him
It is pointing forward to the hope we have given us by that same resurrected Christ in whom we believe the wellbeing and destiny of all things is securely located
And it is a pointer to us today here and now .. asking us about our direction of travel and where we think we are heading
And as we gather to receive the gifts of bread and wine , the forgiveness and hope that is set within us by the living Christ
We hear the words of encouragement
NOT if I were you I wouldn’t start from here, but instead
If I were you I would start precisely here and the table of Christ … precisely where our human nature needs to be, with all our hopes and fears and failures, and where the hope of glory and the promise of eternity is both glimpsed and tasted.