Looking for God in our world - A sermon for Advent1
ISAIAH 64: 1-9; MARK 13: 32-37
I used to think that Advent was a time to encourage people into nice warm thoughts ahead of Christmas. I was wrong.
Advent is a time to be real rather than a time to seek a cosy escape from reality. For in these weeks we should not just be looking to celebrate the birth in Bethlehem but looking and preparing for the time when the Kingdom that Christ proclaimed might come in all its fullness
For certainly the world does not always seem to be the nicest of places. We've heard this morning from the Black Eyed Peas of the hurts that are inflicted by humans on fellow humans. And in the "Streets of London" we have heard an echo of the emptiness that is experienced by so many.
And even were it not for that we have been reminded so much of the dark side of human existence in the last week with a greed induced economic collapse all around us and the snaphots of human violence that have been so terribly enacted in Mumbai this past week. Like the Black Eyed Peas we find ourselves asking;
"Where is the love?"
And if we think of our own individual difficulties and heartaches we can be tempted into total despair and even a Blue Christmas service may be unable to reach us.
Yet we are not the first to feel this way. Our scripture from Isaiah reminds us of a time when the temptation to despair must have been at its greatest. Away from home, exiles lived in Babylon. And as they lived there, they sought answers to their situation and many resolved to keep faith with God even if it meant being the clay in the hands of a potter God. And dreamed they of a time when God "would rend the heavens and come down."
Darkness is also to be found in the world of Mark's community. For this was about the time of the Jewish uprising against Rome which resulted in Jerusalem being starved out and then completely destroyed. Yet Mark brings a reflection of Jesus about the day of the Lord when God's justice and liberation would come. Those who heard would have desperately hoped that the day would be soon. After all the world as they knew it was in meltdown. But the words of Jesus whilst pointing to a cause for hope give no help in timing whatsoever. A simple instruction is given;
"Be on guard! Be alert!"
And that is in essence what Advent is about. It is a time to see round us but in the light of God. And to co operate with every sign of God's kingdom that we see. For whilst empires and ideologies will pass away, God's purposes will never be abandoned.
Yes we can cry out "Where is the love?" But I have news for you. The love which comes from God will ultimately be revealed as stronger than hatred, death, prejudice and destruction. Oh may it be soon! May our prayer be as the words of William Cowper based on our Isaiah reading;
"O rend the heavens, come quickly down!
And make a thousand hearts thine own!"