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Advent 4 December 20th 2015

Saint Albans
Published by in Sermon ·
Tags: Advent42015
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Advent\n4 (20th\nDecember 2015)
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May\nthe words spoken be to the greater glory of God and advance of the\nGospel.  In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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I\nknow that the popular time for reflecting on the past year is New\nYear’s Eve but I’ve decided to do a little bit of that this\nmorning.  Not a complete recap of the year but a couple of personal\nrecaps from this past year as they relate to this time when we\napproach the end of Advent and prepare in four days’ time to\ncelebrate the Nativity of Our Lord.
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In\nhis final sermon to us last week, Peter Jin left us a wonderful\nmessage of hope.  He spoke about Guadete\nSunday\nand what that word means for our faith and our life with Christ.  As\nPeter mentioned, the translation of the Latin word Guadete\nto English means REJOICE!  He talked of the joy that is God for our\nlives and extolled us to rejoice in it always…quoting Saint Paul’s\nLetter to the Philippians.
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A\nword that sounds a bit like Gaudete\nis Laudete.\n This word is best known as associated with the opening words of\nPsalm 117…Laudete\nDominum,\nwhich translates to Praise\nye the Lord.\n Mozart and others have written beautiful settings to this Psalm and\nthere is a lovely Taize chant for it too.
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Both\nwords evoke a great deal about our sense of anticipation during\nAdvent don’t they?  Especially now as we are near the end of our\npreparation time, anticipating our commemoration of the birth of\nJesus.   Gaudete\nand LaudeteRejoice\nand Praise…two\nwords…two responses in thanksgiving we can make for the gift from\nGod, of Himself to the world.
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So\nwhat about my recap?  Well, as I look back this past year, there is\nmuch for me to be grateful for and within the context of my faith, to\nsay Gaudete\nand Laudete\nabout.  I’m sure it’s the same for you too.
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There\nhave been some sad moments of course, especially with illness and\ndeath among those I know and love…and some sadness in the\nworld…deep sadness at atrocities committed in God’s name. \nSadness at the devastation caused by natural disasters.  Sadness at\nthe plight of refugees and others in distress and of the poverty and\nlife conditions of so many in the world and around us here, where too\nlittle food and too much violence prevails.  For me personally\nthough, the good has out-weighed the bad and I am sincerely grateful\nfor the joy that I have from having lived well through this past\nyear.   \n
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I\nturned 65 years this year and although I joke about the Super\nGold Card\nbeing the best part of that event, it is my life that I’m really\ngrateful for and the fact, that I have lived to reach this milestone\ntime.  Finishing up my rather stressful far-too-many years in senior\nuniversity management, is also something I have celebrated…both\nending that part of my life’s work and being grateful for the\nprivilege of having done it.   \n
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Beginning\nmy long-overdue sabbatical leave is another reason for personal\nrejoicing and with Kathy, preparing our home for life in Coromandel\nis another.
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Kathy\nsurviving a near-death experience in a motor accident is a HUGE cause\nfor gratitude this past year and the all the things associated with\nbeing here at Saint Alban’s adds to my reasons for joy at this\ntime.
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Of\nparticular joy to us is the arrival this year of our two\ngrandchildren, Hunter\nin February and Jasmin\njust a few weeks ago.  We are most blessed and gratefully, Kathy and\nI do indeed rejoice.  In the world of God where not all is good, this\nis something for us to say Gaudete\nand\nLaudete about.\n\n
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We\nall have our personal stories and part of the fun looking back is\nthat we can also look forward to anticipate more of the same or even\nbetter.  We know this to be true, even when we also know that some\nunhappiness and sadness will no doubt accompany that joy as we move\non through life.   As the saying goes, “That’s\nlife!”
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The\ntheme of rejoicing and praise with thanksgiving is fully obvious in\nthe Gospel reading for today.  We get an abundance of this and the\nsense of anticipation of good things to come as we hear the tale of\ntwo women.  Elizabeth, the wife of a country priest who late in life\nbecame pregnant and was to be the mother of John the Baptist…and\nMary, the much younger teenage girl who was visited by the Archangel\nGabriel and told she would be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah.\n When hearing this news, she was also made aware of Elizabeth’s\npregnancy.   We hear that when visited by Mary, Elizabeth felt a\nstrong movement in the womb, as if to acknowledge the presence of the\nTheotikos…the\nGod Bearer…the Mother of Jesus the Messiah.  Anticipation was\neverywhere.
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Both\nwomen shared an out-of-the-ordinary experience.  The impossible\nseemed to have happened for Elizabeth with her pregnancy and this\neventuality was shown to Mary as being proof that nothing is\nimpossible with God.  Mary was overwhelmed with a sense of joy at her\nown seemingly impossible pregnancy and against the backdrop of\nsocietal and religious rejection, she felt compelled to believe in\nits truth.
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The\nearly Christians used this story from Saint Luke to teach the truth\nabout the Incarnation. This visitation event was included by Luke in\nthe Nativity Narrative because he realised it was part of the big\npicture...and the church wanted to dispel any suggestion that Mary’s\nwas just another virgin-birth story.  Rulers and wealthy men had used\nsuch stories in the past to cover up their transgressions, so Luke\nwanted to record the actual events and relate them loyally as he did\nwith all he wrote.  Here he drew together the experiences of\nElizabeth and Mary as they were realised to be interwoven in God’s\nplan for humanity.
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The\nprophet Micah centuries before, had predicted that God would provide\nleadership to a nation that had lost its bearings and from that time\non the Jewish people hoped for a Messiah to come among them to show\nthe way to peace.  And the Messiah did come!  He came in human form\nfor God to be among us as one of us!
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The\nMagnificat,\nMary’s song of joy…of acceptance of her role and her\nbeing…declared a fulfilment of Micah’s prophecy.  It was truly\nboth Gaudete\nand Laudete…rejoicing\nand praising God in Mary’s declaration of faith.  She shared this\njoy with Elizabeth.  Both were entirely convinced and committed to\ntheir beliefs. \n
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There\nare many ways that we might relate the drama of this visitation by\nMary to Elizabeth in our own lives. Mothers can, but I can’t\nimagine the deep maternal bliss felt by each woman of course…being\na bloke…but I can appreciate the wonder of it all and the amazing\nsense of anticipation each would be feeling…a mix of joy and\nfulfilment…no doubt with some anxiety and even fear about what it\nwould all mean and where it would take them and their lives.  It\nwould of course, become the greatest story ever written and Luke with\nthe other early church writers knew that it must be told as well as\npossible for generations to come to know and appreciate.
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As\nyou and I look back on our lives, not only this past year but in all\nwe recall, how much we give thanks to God for will no doubt vary from\nepisode-to-episode.  We will probably think we could have done\nwithout one thing or another happening but when all is said-and-done,\nhow much do we really think what happened was because of what we made\nhappen?
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\nHow\nmuch did we really achieve on our own?  In our relationships with\nothers, our lovers, family and friends…our work colleagues and\nthose we encounter in daily life…how much did they help us in the\nsmall things and the large?  How much did they help shape what we are\nand how we are in the world…let alone in our thinking and in our\ndeepest being of self?  And how much of that was of God?  Not from\nGod in the same manner as Mary but of\nGod in the image of his nature and being presented to us through the\nteaching of Jesus.  As with these two women, we do not walk alone in\nthis life. Additional to our family and friends, if we choose to, we\nwalk with Christ in the image of God.
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I\nsubmit that if we follow Christ, the virtues of Christ, the intention\nof Christ that we live peacefully by giving due respect and dignity\nto one another…and by loving one another we thereby, love God…that\nthis is how we are fashioned by God.  This is where and how we do not\nwalk alone.  We do not make our own way totally in isolation of the\nreality that as with Elisabeth and Mary, anything is possible with\nGod.  The influence on our lives by accepting God through Christ as\nthe way to follow and the way to be, means that we can rejoice and\ngive due praise for all we have and all we encounter in our lives. \nWe can indeed, be\njoyful.
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In\nthis joy and in anticipation of the hope he brings, let us now watch\nand wait as this Adventide concludes, for the arrival of he who will\nchange the world and be as Micah prophesised, a leader for all\nnations, for all people equally for all time, out of turmoil into\ncalm…into the knowledge and love of God.
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In\nthe Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.
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