4th December, 2016
There is a new baby coming our way. He is the son of Pravin and Jasinta, and the newest member of this parish family. As we are mindful in Advent of the coming of Jesus at the Incarnation (we call it Christmas), and the second coming of Jesus at the end of time (we call that the Eschaton), perhaps we should think about the sort of Christian experience we will provide for this new son. In the Gospel this morning we are introduced to an loud and abrasive fellow named John. He was a wild sort of man, living apart from good society, scary in appearance and unpleasant in smell. And he threatened coming destruction. God was coming soon to clean house in this wicked world, so you’d better get your house in order by being baptized as a sign of repentance. Is that a message you want this young man to take to heart? What about a “Christian soldier” model, passionate young people going off to war against the enemies of God? Would you rather model a non-violent agenda for changing the world, or should this baby just not take religion so seriously and leave the world to its own devices? What about the notion of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”? Does that capture the heart of a man who challenged oppression and excessive wealth which ignored the needs of the poor? We need to do some thinking, for two reasons: first, because there are many models of Christianity, and second, you are the first real Christians this baby will see outside his immediate family. What if he grows up to be like you?
Imagine a Christian family:
…that holds a deep respect for nature and the sacredness of all life.
Celtic Christians thought the earth and other beings are all part of the sacred mystery of life, not mechanisms to be dominated. Here women and men were held in equal dignity, and the counsel and service of both sexes were sought and followed.
…which saw that community is essential for grief, life and hope, especially when the world seemed to be falling apart.
They thought of themselves as cells of a living body, not individuals choosing whether or not to be affiliated. 100 years ago churches still were that community.
…that believed beauty and the arts were signatures and invitations to the heart of God.
…which saw no separation between the sacred and secular – all is sacred.
They thought material is an expression of the spiritual, so spiritual never an option. What about all human life - sex and commerce, living and dying – all are holy.
…that believed first-hand experience of God was primary, essential, and came before rules and systems of belief.
One did not belong because you first believed and behaved, but belief and proper behavior came from belonging to the community of God’s people.
Here is a Christianity which lived with a sense that the old world was passing away and a new world was being born, and they were the midwives for the birth. They had faced their own fear and therefore could see goodness in all people and felt God was with them in at all times, in all things.
The Celtic Christians knew the world was enchanted; we seek its re-enchantment. Not by magic or incantation, but by living according to these principles. Christ came to bring us into our true selves, as graceful and good and worthy. Not to rescue us as much as restore us.
The church asks two things of you in Advent: to prepare for the feast of Incarnation, keeping Christ in Christmas, and second, to be prepared for the end of time, or the end of our time. As the affirmation goes, “…that when he shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear, rejoice to behold his appearing.”
There is a new baby coming our way. May we treasure our Christian faith, and share it with him and among ourselves. Let us seek the re-enchantment of this world, and midwife the kingdom of heaven here.
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.