Christmas C – 2016

If you have ever felt unloved, unworthy or useless, you need to think again. That is the message of Christmas which is often glossed over or simply forgotten in the hubub of Christmas preparations.

Stephen Brown, in his book, If God Is In Charge (Baker Book House, October 1994), tells a wonderful story about a young couple that says a great deal about the Incarnation: “She was eighteen and he was nineteen when they met. They fell in love, and one year later they were married. Some six years and three children later, she decided while standing before the kitchen sink with a pile of dirty dishes and with a pile of dirty diapers on the floor, that she just couldn’t stand it any more. She took off her apron and just walked out the door.

Sometimes she would call home to check on the children, and on those occasions he would tell her how much he loved her, and he would ask her to come home. Each time she refused.

“After a number of days, he hired a private detective to find his wife. The report said she was living in a second-class hotel in Des Moines, Iowa. He packed his bags, placed the children under the care of a neighbor, and took a bus to Des Moines. He found the hotel and made his way to her room. When he knocked on the door, his hand trembled because he didn’t know the kind of reception he would receive. His wife opened the door, stood for a moment looking at him in shocked silence, and then fell apart in his arms. “Later, at home, when the children were in bed, he asked her a question that had long troubled him: `Why wouldn’t you tell me where you were when you called? You knew I loved you. Why didn’t you come home?’ “She replied, `Before, your love was just words. Now I know how much you love me because you came.'”

God came! That’s the glorious message of Christmas. It is the message of the Apostle John when he says, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

God came into the world because of love … love for you, love for me, and love for the countless weary souls who have lost their way.

You are loved, you are valued,

Many blessings

Reverend Shan

Advent 4C – 20th December 2015

As I have driven along Preston Road, recently, I have noticed a sign outside one of the churches which proclaims “God makes miracles out of messes and mistakes”.

I probably wouldn’t have put it like that – still I understand the sentiment. This weeks readings show this to be so. There is Elizabeth, seemingly barren, but now pregnant despite her apparent old age. And Mary, an unwed teenager who has been told she is carrying the savior of the world, not to mention Micah who has been speaking against the sins and corruption rife in Jerusalem and Judah. He speaks vividly of God’s judgment upon the people toward the end of chapter 4 describing Jerusalem as a woman writhing in labour. The woman in labour will give birth and there will be joy in that. The one who is to come “will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord”. And his new people “will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the land”. And, very significantly, “he himself will be peace, shalom”.

Inherent in these readings is the deeper reality that with God there can be hope in the unexpected reversal of circumstances. Such a reversal is a vital element in many Old Testament texts, especially in the prophets. With God, we encounter the unexpected and the paradoxical. Hope arises out of devastation. Suffering embodies salvation.

It challenges everything we know about power and position to encounter the stories for today about “one of the little clans of Judah” and two women who carry the promises of God within themselves. The powers that be have been well and truly displaced.

We can wonder what our relationship to the powers that be might be; what needs to get turned on its head in our own thinking so that we are more open to the real ways that God enters our world and make fewer assumptions about how we think it ought to happen. Someone right beside us, or even we ourselves, might be carrying an insight that seems so unlikely but is nevertheless transformational. Will we take care to recognise and celebrate it?

Blessings

Reverend Shan