In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Good morning everyone as we come together to mark the second week of the Church year and the half-way point in Advent. Because of course, as was mentioned last week, Advent does mark the New Year in the Church Kalendar. And as I was thinking about this it did seem quite strange…we would normally see a New Year in with great celebrations and rejoicing. Instead, we do the opposite…we go quiet…we take time…we reflect…
Celebration is coming! Soon we will celebrate…we will remember the Christ Child being born among us…and we will look forward with anticipation to the coming again of Christ, in Glory, to gather us to God in that greatest of celebrations when all things are transformed and renewed…and the full light and brilliance of God is revealed to all people…and “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
First though…we consider…we look at what God has done and is doing in our lives and the lives around us. And we take the time to really think about what the coming of Christ means to us and how it can affect the world around us.
So you could say…in Advent…we find ourselves in a wilderness…between the year that was and the year ahead. The prophet Malachi reports to us his oracle from God, “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple…he is coming.”
We know he is coming…soon we will celebrate the sudden coming of the Lord to his temple at Christmas…but here, in Advent, out in the wilderness, we find ourselves surrounded by the Lord’s messengers…the words of prophets…sent to prepare the way.
As this week’s readings are so much about prophets…and especially in our Gospel reading with John the Baptist…I found myself reflecting on prophets as well…who could we call a prophet…what does a prophet do…
In the advent study over the last two weeks we’ve looked at, met and talked together about a collection of people who we find in the biblical narrative…all of whom have a connection to the coming of Christ…all or many of whom we could view in one way or another as prophets or messengers or witnesses or participants in what is coming…
Isaiah…Paul…Mary…Simeon…the angel Gabriel…Elizabeth…Joseph…and of course John the Baptist…people who in some way or other had an encounter with God…and whose lives were changed in the process…who did things differently as result…lives who even now, 2000 years later, prepare a way for us to follow in our growing understanding of who Christ was and what he is to us.
Because we are growing…we do not yet know everything but we know some things…and day by day we gain things…In his letter to the Philippians this morning Paul prays that “love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight.” And just so…the love of God, pours in, through and around us…overflowing more and more…bringing closer and closer, knowledge and full insight. Following a way prepared for us by numerous people…witnesses and messengers and prophets…
The word ‘Prophet’ seems such a big thing of course… it calls to mind grand pronouncements and earth-shattering cries…but when I went to my dictionary, what I found was quite a simple sentence…PROPHET: Person who preaches what has been revealed…
So…a prophet is a person who preaches…well of course there are many ways of understanding what preaching means…there’s the type of preaching I’m doing now…there’s the more intimate setting, such as at the study-group where we all share together…there are the everyday faith conversations that we might take part in…and of course there’s that well-worn quote from Francis of Assisi…”Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”…so there’s the preaching that comes from how we live and how we act.
And then there’s the second part of that definition…the prophet is a person who preaches what has been revealed…so the prophet doesn’t preach what they don’t know…the prophet doesn’t untangle an un-solve-able riddle or try to go beyond their knowledge…or even feel they need to answer every question or be able to rebut every argument…rather they stand firm in what has been revealed to them at that time by God.
In a way then…we are all prophets and messengers…all of us have bits of knowledge about God…things that have been made known to us…things that have been revealed…
They might be the truths that we can claim from the bible story…what we have heard here in church or what we have read ourselves and believe in faith to be true.
It may be the claim of our baptism…the knowledge that we have been raised through the sacrament to new life in Christ.
Or it may be what we know has been revealed to us through our encounter with Christ Jesus in the Eucharist…that partaking in the body and blood of Christ and the outpouring of God’s grace among, through and with us again and again.
We know Christ our God as “the Word made Flesh”…so whether through the written word of the bible or the presence of the Word in the sacrament we have all received some kind of revelation…some kind of knowledge of who God is and what he is doing…it may be as simple as the story…a story known by you and a million other people…but that doesn’t lessen the message, just because many people know it…we aren’t a secretive faith…rather we want everyone to know what God has done and is doing…the more people to whom God is revealed, the better.
I recently had two conversations…and yet surprisingly the content was much the same…two completely unrelated women shared with me their experience of teaching the Christmas story to their grandchildren so that they would know the truth about the Christmas season…so that they would be able to take that knowledge forward…in what those two women were doing do we not see the image of a person preaching what has been revealed to them?
Over the last week or two with all of the supporters coming out to advocate in light of the climate change debates…many of them Christian, and some from this very parish…do we not see people preaching in action what has been revealed to them regarding the sanctity of God’s good creation.
So when we hear passages of scripture, as we have this morning…when we hear of “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ Let that be to us a reminder that we too have voices…we too know something of God…we too have our stories to share…and if this Advent is our wilderness before the coming of that longed for day…then let us lift our voices, in whatever ways each of us can…let there be not just one but many voices crying out…many hands preparing the way…for together we know that the ‘crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.’
And echoing the words of Paul to the Philippians…”I thank our God…constantly praying with joy…because of your sharing in the Gospel.”