St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Fourth Sunday in Advent, 2014

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 On this fourth Sunday in Advent S Paul has some very good advice for us: “The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything…”
 
We are reaching the end of our season of waiting for the coming of the Lord. The Lord is near. For many the injunction the injunction “Do not worry about anything…” is most fitting. There always seems so much to worry about over the festive season. In a few short days, should it be God’s plan, we will celebrate our annual remembrance of the birth of Jesus. Our waiting for the second coming of the Lord might go on.
 
Over the last three Sundays we have examined some of the adverbs which can be applied to Advent. Today we should spend some time looking at our response to this penitential season. We will do that by looking at five more adverbs.
 
As we hear again the old, old story of the birth of Jesus we are tempted to say that we have heard it all before. We should, however, respond excitedly. Remember those shepherds who went to look for that which the angel had told them about. They found Mary and Joseph, with the baby sleeping in a manger. Luke 2:17-18 tells us: “When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” These shepherds were excited about what had come to pass. How excited are we about our faith? How excited are we about coming to Mass at Midnight, or on Christmass morning?
 
The clue to the next adverb is given in the idea of coming to Mass at Christmass. Yesterday I received a delightful Christmas e-card on my computer. It showed a church; when I clicked on the church suddenly the choir boys started arriving and processing in singing a carol. The greeting appeared as they reached their places in church and worship began. Our response to the season of Advent should be one in which we wait worshipfully. Whenever we experience the action of God in our lives our response should be one of worship. The birth of Jesus brought about the greatest thing that God could do for us; he provided the means of our salvation. 
 
At the Epiphany we will celebrate the visit of the Magi, the three wise men. S Matthew tells us, “…they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” These strangers, who had followed a star, worshipped the baby Jesus. They offered him gifts. As we worship this Christmass what gifts have we to offer the baby Jesus?
 
The next adverb to give us an idea of our response is the word tenderly. As the Blessed Virgin Mary held the small baby tenderly in her arms, she might have thought about what had happened to her. She might even have given a thought to what the future might hold for both her and the baby. Little did she know that just as tenderly she would one day be holding the dead body of her crucified son. Our response to Advent could benefit from a little tenderness. It is so easy to become hard and rigid in our religious observance. In our living out of our faith in Jesus we should deal both with ourselves and with others tenderly. God loves us tenderly; ought we not so to love ourselves and others.
 
At this time of the year we are all aware of the Christmassy music played in the shopping malls. In America there is a song, which was first published in 1719. The words are by English hymn writer Isaac Watts, based on Psalm 98, and appeared in Watts' collection, titled; ‘The Psalms of David: Imitated in the language of the New Testament, and applied to the Christian state and worship’. The song is "Joy to the World" and Watts wrote it as a hymn glorifying Christ's triumphant return at the end of time, rather than a song celebrating his birth. Our response to Advent should be expressed joyfully. We sing out God’s praise as we celebrate; may your celebrations be joyful. Psalm 100 gives us a suggestion: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
 
The final adverb we will consider is the word ‘hopefully’. For many years God’s people waited hopefully for the Messiah, the Saviour, to come. And, at the birth of Jesus, he came. God’s promise came true. Jesus promised that he would come again; and there is no reason for us not to believe that it will be so. We wait hopefully for the coming of the Lord.
You and I are Advent people. We wait for Jesus to come. That is our hope. This Christmass let our hope overflow; let is spill out to those around us who wait in darkness. Let us share the good news that Jesus is coming.
 
 
On Wednesday night, or Thursday, we will show our response to Advent. May we gather in church excitedly, worshipfully, tenderly, joyfully and hopefully as we proclaim the overwhelming love of God for us and the whole world now and forever in the baby Jesus.
 
May God bless you in this last week of Advent.
 
 

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