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December 07, 2008

Advent Two

This morning I'm the preacher for the Sung Eucharist at 1100. The readings are an interesting selection from Isaiah 40: 1 - 11, 2 Peter 3: 8-15 and the Gospel is Mark 1: 1 - 8. The resultant sermon is in the extended post below. It is and will be short - during Advent we have the Litany in Procession to begin the service and this takes care of Intercessions. It is also quite lengthy and preachers are warned to be considerate in their preachment.

Advent is about preparaing ourselves for the coming of the Lord. We do not know waht form that will take, nor do we know when. We do know that we must be prepared.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him”

May I speak and may you hear in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

There appears to be a world of difference between the message of hope proclaimed by John in our Gospel reading from St Mark and the vision of doom set out in St Peters letter. In the one, John tells of a saviour who brings the baptism of the Holy Spirit, in the other Peter warns that the end will be cataclysmic. Which is the one we celebrate? Which is the one we should heed?

We need to remember two things here, the first is that the writers of both the gospels as we have them and the writer of the portion of the letter read today expected to see “the day of the Lord” arrive during their lifetimes. In fact, it is evident from the writings of St Paul that he changed his view, and no doubt but that Peter and the others had to adjust their thinking on this as well. Hence Peter’s warning that –

“With the Lord is a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

In effect he is telling his readers that to speculate on when that day will come is pointless, yet it is the duty of every Christian to be prepared for it. When that day comes if we are not ready, we won’t have time to make amends for time itself will have run to an end.

It cannot escape your notice if you, like me, are fascinated by astronomy, that the description Peter gives us of the heavens vanishing with a roar and everything being destroyed by fire is pretty close to what science tells us happened to the dinosaurs when the earth was last hit by a giant meteor – or could happen if we are unlucky enough to get caught in a Gamma Ray burst from an exploding star somewhere in the universe. Does this mean, as Richard Dawkins tries to allege, that there is no God? On the contrary, the miracle that is life is so fragile, so dependent on so many tiny variables that it is almost impossible to explain our existence without a God. But God is not just some super scientist randomly creating suns, worlds moons and perhaps even new life forms even as we sit here, God cares for his creation, cares to the point of becoming human himself in the only way possible, through being incarnate in the womb of Mary and born in the stable in Bethlehem. In this way, as St John tells us –

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

And it is in anticipation of his return that our seasons lead us through the great cycle of the gospels year on year, reminding us to be vigilant, to prepare, to be ready when that day should come.

In the coming year our Gospels will be taken largely from St Mark’s version of Christ’s ministry among us and it is worth considering that it may well be the oldest of the four, and certainly it is the most direct in its imagery and its language. Many believe that it may also have as its source Peter himself who was certainly alive and living in Rome, very probably with John Mark, the author of this work. Like the gospel of St John, there is no nativity story and no reference to Bethlehem. Mark plunges straight to the beginning of Christ’s ministry and he draws on eyewitnesses for confirmation of his account, in one place even naming them.

The other striking feature of it is the absence of the original ending. We don’t know what happened to it and the oldest manuscripts may even have been involved in a fire and the ending damaged beyond recovery. Does it matter? It shouldn’t, what it should do is confirm the authenticity, the sincerity of the author and the events he is describing.

Mark’s gospel begins as we should, as Isaiah called upon his nation to do –

“Make straight in the wilderness a Highway for our God.”

This is the call to every Christian, that we must in every age proclaim the coming of our Lord, sometimes suffering the derision of those whose intellect is exceeded only by their own blindness to those things they do not want to see or understand and sometimes enjoying the fellowship of our companions on the journey through this life.
Now we are called to prepare ourselves once more for a new year of waiting, watching and readiness. For a new year of opportunities to show our love of Christ and to show the message of his gospel in our daily lives, until his coming again in Glory.

And for all who are ready on that day, they shall see the Glory of the One and Only; full of grace and truth.
Will we be ready? Will we have fulfilled our calling to live in grace and to bring His Gospel to the world? Let us live in prayerful hope that we are doing it already.


Posted by The Gray Monk at December 7, 2008 07:13 AM

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