Sunday, 8 December 2013

Ready and SET for Advent: a Short Homily for a Festal Hanging of the Greens

Jesus is the name He was to be given. He will be great, Gabriel said, and He is. He reigns forever, He is the holy one and is called the Son of the most high God. (Lk 31-32, 35) It is because of Jesus that we are not alone. Jesus is God with us now, and Jesus is coming again which is why we're hanging greens today—to symbolically prepare him decorated room in this place and in our hearts to receive him well. This is what Advent is about: preparing to celebrate His Christmas arrival then and so we'll be ready when Jesus comes again in power and great glory.

Last Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, we explored some ways in which the Scriptures teach us to be READY for his return. To organize our thoughts I used the word READY as an anagram. Today, we'll look at some ways to be SET for Jesus' return. Last Sunday was about being READY, this morning it's about getting SET.  Once again, we'll use the word SET as an anagram to help order our thoughts.

S is our STARTING point, the one upon which we SET our hopes: Jesus, the SON of God. Just like Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, Simeon all the others we read about in Scripture—you and I each have a unique and vital role to play in bringing Jesus into our world. Mary, the greatest merely human being that ever lived, some say, is a good example to follow. We can learn from Her.

First of all, Mary was a she: SHE. Being female is no disqualification from doing great things for The LORD.

Second, God's call to get SET is SPECIFIC: for Mary, it was in the SIXTH month, of a particular year that God SENT the angel Gabriel to Nazareth to talk to Her. (Lk1.26) God's call to you and me to get set to bring Jesus into our world is just as SPECIFIC—among specific people, in specific places and at a particular time in history. Our time is now.

Third, because she was greatly troubled and wondered at Gabriel's words (Lk1:29), she questioned him about what He said: “How will this be,” she asked the angel, “SINCE I am a virgin?” (Lk1.34) Discernment and asking for clarification is often an important and necessary part of getting SET to bring Jesus into our world. Gabriel replied, “Don't be afraid, you have found favour with God. The Holy SPIRIT will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Nothing is impossible with God" (Lk1.30, 35, 37) And Mary said those amazing, faith-filled words: “I am the Lord’s SERVANT. May it be to me as you have SAID.” (Luke 1:38)

The how will be the SAME for you and me when, following Mary's example, we say, "I, too, am Your SERVANT, O LORD. May it be with me as you SAY." The mighty Holy SPIRIT will come upon you and me and the power of the Most High will overshadow us and we will find ourselves bringing Jesus into our world in all sorts of unexpected and miraculous ways.

Getting SET is to listen for God's SPECIFIC call, prayerfully ask our questions as we are honest about our fears and feelings, offer ourselves as The LORD's SERVANTS, receive the Holy SPIRIT in faith, and act.

Which brings me to E. E is for EYES and EARS open. "Then will the EYES of the blind be opened and the EARS of the deaf unstopped," (Is35.5) wrote Isaiah about the coming of Jesus even though he didn't realize it at the time. Mary's EYES and EARS were open and pretty soon she was EXPECTING Jesus. EXPECTANT Advent readiness for his coming again keeps our spiritual EYES and EARS open so we'll see and hear new ways to bring Jesus into our world.

It will not be EASY, but as Gabriel told Mary, "Don't be afraid, Jesus' kingdom will never END. (Lk1.30, 33)

That's S and E. Now T for getting set, TOTALLY.

T is for TROUBLE. There will be TROUBLE. Not only was Mary herself greatly TROUBLED by her angelic visit (Lk1.29) before Jesus was born, Simeon said some disturbing things to her when they took Jesus to the temple, "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a SIGN that will be SPOKEN against," he said, "so that the THOUGHTS of many hearts will be revealed. And a SWORD will pierce your own SOUL too.” (Lk2:34-35) We can be spoken against when we're getting set to bring Jesus into our world. Souls can be pierced.

T is also for TAKE a stand. In the song we're about to hear: the TERRIFIED, TROUBLED young girl, Mary, still sings "Holy is He. Blessed am I. Be born in me. Make my heart your Bethlehem. Be born in me."

Observing Advent like this helps me to SET my heart on bringing Jesus into my here and now. It can do the same for you so we can all pray, "Be born in me. Make my heart your Bethlehem. Be born in me, Jesus."