Advent Sunday 2014

Advent is often seen as the waiting room of Christmas, a time of hanging about before the show begins,before Christmas comes, the angels sing and there is peace on earth and goodwill to all. 

The trouble is, that Christmas has come already, repeatedly, since that long, long awaited day when the angels first sang to us and God came down to live among us. 

And after all the waiting, and all these very many Christmases, there is not much peace and precious little goodwill. 

And as we ponder this we begin to understand the plea of Isaiah that we heard this morning:     

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down so that the mountains would quake at your presence.”   

“O that you would perform awesome deeds … that the nations might tremble” 

The people of Israel have been waiting – they have been waiting to return from exile to restore Jerusalem but now they have returned, they have arrived in Jerusalem.

Yet there is no prosperity, there is no peace, there is precious little goodwill and the question they ask themselves is where is God?                   
Why has God hidden himself from them?                                                 
What on earth is God doing?  

Most all of us must have asked that question at some time or another: either when faced with the scale of brutality and cruelty in the world around us, or with the disappointments, loss and tragedies of our own lives.

Last week, amid the news about bomb attacks in Nigeria, shelling in Syria and people trafficking here in the UK, I came across this much less dramatic headline:  “helpline for the elderly inundated with calls about loneliness.”

Where is God then, when war breaks out? Or when loneliness seeps in? Does God hide when the going gets tough? 

Or is it just that we are looking for the wrong God, in the wrong place?  

The people of Israel were looking for a God who would tear open heaven, make the mountains boil and cause their adversaries to tremble.  

They called for God to come down and he came – not as fire and earthquake – but as a naked new born. 
God came as a child to call to the child of God in us; to give to us the power to become children of God.     

God came and he still comes when we call (and even when we don’t).  

And he offers us a chance to perform the awesome deeds.  

What chance do we have? When we look back at the headlines from last week we may not feel empowered to end the war on terror or stamp our trafficking but we are surely empowered to do something about the lonely who live among us?

On the first Sunday of Advent we traditionally celebrate the patriarchs: those elders who have shaped and moulded our lives, who have nurtured and influenced us.                                                                     
We celebrate the elders of our faith like Abraham and Isaac but this year I thought that we might celebrate our own elders:

Did you know that pinkie, now 92 only gave up teaching children when she was 91?  

Did you know that Lynford, now 87, gets the bus to East Street market and buys bananas and grapes that he takes to the hospital for sick friends and neighbours (many of whom are younger than him), 

And Josie, 81 in under 3 weeks, plays the piano for children taking ballet and music exams (as well as often playing for us).

The streets around are no doubt full of many other such people: people who have gifts and talents, full of ideas and affection and opinions and who might like more of an opportunity to share them with others.

Earlier this year we agreed that we wanted to be a place where older people could socialise safely and contribute to the community.

In the new year we hope to launch a Tuesday morning drop in for older people – a place to chat and have a cuppa, a place to belong. 

But to do that we need God to show up, we need to see his face, and his heart and his hands – here in your faces and your hearts and your hands.

We need God to show up – not to shake the mountains but to volunteer, to make the tea, to give people a lift, to draw up the rotas, to donate the cash for the community buses and the cakes.

The people of Israel call on God to perform awesome deeds, 

I am calling on God to do quietly excellent acts, small heroics, everyday epics …

And I am calling on God to do them in and through - you. 

I am calling on God to open our ears to hear that the angels never stop singing, to open our eyes to see that Christmas never stops coming, to get us up and out of the waiting room and into the kingdom.