So … from first of Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 5
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets but test everything. Hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. May the God of Peace himself sanctify you entirely, and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)
Three years ago, about this time we were waiting for my son to be born, it was December and the snow had been falling for days, and it was just beautiful outside and it pretty much pretty much looked like it does now, if you can see out my window here. It’s you know, snowy and beautiful. Everything was just quiet and calm. It was also the pandemic, time of the pandemic, so it was all locked down and the days went slowly, and we did the preparations we had to do, and he was born and it was a beautiful, beautiful time to be waiting for him. Then it all changed when he came. It was still beautiful, but not so quiet anymore.
Now it’s the Advent – the time of Advent. I don’t know if you say that. We say that here – literally translated from Swedish – we say it’s the time of the Advent. Anyway, it we know, we might know that it means ‘arrival’, the arrival and not the waiting, but it is a time of waiting – waiting for God, waiting for God to be born into history, and a time of waiting for Hope to enter the world – a hope of alive on the other side of death, the eternal life, hope of justice for everyone – for all that to enter our world, it’s a time of waiting for God to intervene, and it’s of it’s often said that the intellectuals in Europe stopped believing in God’s intervention in history after the severe earthquakes in Lisbon in the middle of mid 1800’s, uh, sorry, 18th century um, 1700 and something.
So, the question after that has always been, can God intervene in history? Can God really intervene in our lives, and yes, intellectually, that is a big question, at least it has been for me, and sometimes I do feel tempted to say ‘No. I don’t believe that God can intervene, and certainly that He cannot intervene’, and He will not intervene just because I pray because if it means that I have to pray in order for God to intervene … it’s just not a healthy argument. Still, even so, I think we cannot abandon the idea that God intervenes in history and still call ourselves Christians, and one of the reasons for that is that we do know, as Christians, that God has intervened in history at least once by being born uh Into this world, so you can sort of say that God has, at least once, intervened powerfully from within and, to be honest, that is exactly what it means what Christianity is about.
It is that that distinguishes Christianity from the other monotheistic religions – that we do believe that God has visited our lives in this powerful concrete way, and that is also the way, as far as I understand it, the message of Christmas – that God can and that God will visit mankind, and that he will choose a tiny little town – the town of Bethlehem – and that he will give us hope, and that he will show a way towards justice.
Traditionally, at least in my part of the world … I apologize for not knowing enough about the Anglican Church of Australia and other Anglican churches, but here, at least, we are in what we call the ‘Small Lent’ – a period of fasting leading up to Christmas, and we fast and we prepare ourselves for meeting God, and today’s text from Thessalonians says that Paul says that we should, while we wait, continue to pray, continue to be happy, and at least try to be happy, and try to say thanks for whatever life throws at us, which is not a bad idea really because we never really know what experiences will be turned into wisdom and deep knowledge as time goes by, even though it’s not pleasant at the time, and that we should do whatever is in our power to abstain from doing the bad things that we easily do.
So, the message of today and of Christmas is obviously very hopeful – that we’re not alone and that it’s not impossible and that we can rest in knowing that the ultimate responsibility for everything is in God’s hands. Like Paul writes, “the one who is faithful have called you and he will do this.”
Yes, I wish you a good Sunday bye.
First broadcast on www.thesundayeucharist.com on December 17, 2023