Advent 2 – 5th December – Rev Alison Way

Philippians 1:3-1, Luke 3:1-6

In the name of the living God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Early this week I was sharing in our Advent group, about how much I like a good plan! We did an exercise at the beginning of the group about how people approach life – do they like to be spontaneous and go with the flow at one end of the scale, and those who like things planned out and thought through at the other end of the scale. It came as no surprise to me that I came out as the person who most liked to be planned. (I have done similar exercises to this one before and found myself in this position of being the person who most like to be planned several times before!).

My enthusiasm for a good plan has been one of the greatest stressors I have had in the last 20 months or so, where planning has been difficult if not reasonably impossible! There has been the unwelcome challenge of more uncertainty this week too. Will we suddenly be rushing into a period with further risk assessments, yet more long and complicated guidance (often produced after you are supposed to apply it!)? Or will it all be a storm in a tea cup and we will carry on as we have been for a while?

At the moment I am about the most planned ahead that I have managed since I have been here and I have been fighting the sinking feeling inside that the omicron variant may yet scupper that! Being a vicar is an interesting challenge where planning is concerned with lots of dimensions and layers to it. With dates agreed a long time ahead and things that need attention now and overtake everything I thought I might have been doing. Something completely other happens from time to time but other commitments are very fixed and don’t shift irrespective of anything else!

Our gospel reading today Is about the unfolding of God’s big plan – where it ends with John the Baptist saying

And All flesh will see the salvation of God

It begins with setting the context and the historical setting by listing who was in charge, starting with the Emperor Tiberius, local Roman governor Pontius Pilate, then the local (and powerless) King Herod and finally the two high priests, Annas and Caiaphas (we heard about them 2 weeks ago). We are then introduced to the person preparing the way for Jesus – John the Baptist. And after the musical Godspell – We can have the refrain – Prepare  ye the way of the lord in our minds.

Being prepared, alert and ready is very much the basis of what John the Baptist was about and is captured in the words we heard quoted from the prophet Isaiah at the end of our gospel reading. So what does being prepared actually mean in our Christian lives?

Interestingly we thought about this in this week’s advent course. From my perspective it is not about having everything planned out, so this is something I need to be careful of in particular. It is also not about being so laid back that we miss opportunities that God gives us. It is also not about being so wired that we are anxious and constantly in flight or fight mode (with adrenaline cursing round our blood systems much to much)

The Reverend Lucy Winkett who compiled our course entitled – so what are you waiting for –  said the preparedness and readiness we need is as follows:-

  • We’re asked to practise our courage,

  • Practise kindness,

  • Practise forgiveness.

  • And to do all of this today – not postpone it all to some time in the future.

I found this a helpful thing to dwell on.

  • Practising courage – means being brave in small things now, so it becomes a habit when more difficult things come along.

  • Practising openness – means responding to the sense of God we feel in his presence in the things that unfold each day. Praying as we go is another good way to be open.

  • Practising honesty means saying when something matters to us in line with our faith (and not worrying about the potential reaction).

  • Practising kindness is really important in our current scenario (and something I have been saying frequently). It is not usually difficult to be kind and it says a lot about us and our hearts for God, loving our neighbours as ourselves. Honesty does need to be done kindly too!

  • Practising forgiveness was the end of the list of things we needed to practise – to live alert and prepared seeking God’s forgiveness, seeking other’s forgiveness and forgiving ourselves. Not leaving something festering when we know we are in the wrong. There’s a lot to be said for ending each day with reflection and repentance, alongside thanksgivings.

The final piece of guidance was not to postpone it all to some time in the future. Leaving undone things that we should have done – not living in the now. If we are experts in procrastination this is a tough ask. There are of course times when we are better leaving something – but beware default positions, especially if it is do tomorrow what I could do today!

I really like the fact that the verb used here was practise. Keep trying, keep perfecting, keep going – don’t give up. We are always a work in progress. I was challenged on the clergy quiet day – not to describe our Christian lives as our walk with God (which I am prone to do and because I like walking). But to think of it as God’s walk with us – putting God in his rightful place first in our lives. This change of emphasis will also help us to be more open and mindful of God’s love for us.

I think one of the things our COVID days have brought us is a great awareness of living in the moment. We have had a lot stripped away and it has helped us to not take things for granted and to be thankful for each day. Let’s use all of this to help us live in a state of readiness – being prepared as the voice in the wilderness cries out to our hearts once again.

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Amen

References

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995

Godspell is a musical composed by Stephen Schwartz with the book by John-Michael Tebelak based on Matthew’s gospel

York course – So what are you waiting for – Lucy Winkett © York Courses 2017

 

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