Monthly Archives: December 2012

Promise fulfilled—Christmas 1, Year C (30 December 2012)

1 Samuel 2.18–20, 26
Colossians 3.12–17
Luke 2.41–52

Parents, have you ever been out and about and realised that your child is no longer with you? You may have been in a shopping centre looking at what to buy and when you look down little Johnny’s gone.

It’s a rotten feeling, isn’t it? Sudden fear, intense panic and a huge dose of self-blame. You just know that everyone will say what a rotten parent you are.

If you’ve ever been in that situation, you have some idea of how Mary and Joseph felt. They’d gone up with family and friends to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast in the great Temple there. Halfway home, they realise Jesus isn’t with the group. Frantically, they look and look again in every nook and cranny, calling Jesus’ name over and over. Nothing. Finally they trudge back to the city under a cloud of shame, fighting off those insistent thoughts that kept inserting themselves into their minds—thoughts that he may no longer be alive.

Still, they found him. Parents will understand Mary’s mixture of relief, exasperation and anger:

Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.

But Jesus responded,

Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?

Didn’t you know where I’d be?

Well, they didn’t. It’s kind of comforting to see that the Holy Family had its messy moments. It gives some encouragement to the rest of us.

But Luke doesn’t tell the story to show that the Holy Family was human. This is a kind of ‘coming of age’ story, where Jesus is coming to terms with his identity as Son of God. Luke shows us that it’s something he had to learn about himself.

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The cast of Luke—Advent 4, Year C (23 December 2012)

Micah 5.2–5a
Luke 1.39–55

When the Scriptures are used maturely, and they become a precursor to meeting the Christ, they proceed in this order:

  1. They confront us with a bigger picture than we are used to, “God’s kingdom” that has the potential to “deconstruct” our false world views.
  2. They then have the power to convert us to an alternative worldview by proclamation, grace and the sheer attraction of the good, the true and the beautiful (not by shame, guilt or fear which are low-level motivations). “Attraction not promotion,” said Bill Wilson, cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  3. They then console us and bring deep healing as they “reconstruct” us in a new place with a new mind and heart.

Preparing for Christmas (Richard Rohr)


Are we nearly there yet?

There can’t be a parent who hasn’t been asked that question. Usually as you’re backing out of your suburban Brisbane garage to drive to Sydney.

Are we nearly there yet?

Well yes, we’re nearly there. We’re almost at the stable, the baby Jesus will soon be born.

And as we’re nearly there, Luke gives us a story of Mary early in her pregnancy. Her very unexpected pregnancy. This was not on her radar!

So in dealing with this unexpected pregnancy, Mary does something you might expect. She hurries to see Elizabeth, also unexpectedly pregnant. But Elizabeth is older and has more experience of things. And she is a whole six months pregnant.

They talk. They talk about babies, but it’s not the usual conversation because these are not the usual babies. Elizabeth is carrying John, who was to be the forerunner of Mary’s son, Jesus.

Every baby is special, but these are two very special babies.

Mary and Elizabeth were not important women. Herod didn’t know them, Pilate had never heard of them. But God knew them, and chose them for a wonderful task. God chose a barren woman, and a young woman little more than a child herself.

If Elizabeth and Mary had been asked who would God choose to bring the Messiah and the Messiah’s herald into the world, they would have scratched their heads. I don’t believe they would say “Pick me, pick me!” More likely, they’d wonder which great lady in a royal palace would get do this. If they were lucky, they might be allowed to become a servant in that great lady’s household.

But no. They were the chosen ones. A barren woman and a girl.

It’s God’s decision who God chooses. He may choose you. This Advent, this Christmas, watch; wait; listen. It may be you.

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Rejoice! Repent. The Lord is near—Advent 3, Year C (16 December 2012)

Philippians 4.4–7
Luke 3.7-18

The recent hailstorm peppered the church roof so badly that it needed to be fixed up. Alan couldn’t wait for the insurance company to make its final determination, so he decided to get up on the roof to repaint it. Alan wanted to save money for the church, so he thinned the paint down. It started to rain again when Alan was halfway through, so he had to find some cover. After the rain stopped, he looked out. He was horrified to see the paint had run in a series of soggy streaks. While he was still staring aghast at the roof, a voice rang out from heaven: “Repaint! Repaint! And thin no more!”

I don’t know if the voice was God’s or John the Baptist’s. Ask Alan afterwards whose voice he thinks it was.

On the Third Sunday of Advent, the RCL readings have two themes: ‘repent’ (not ‘repaint’!) and ‘joy’. Isn’t that strange? Do repentance and joy go together? And if so, how?

John the Baptist is the messenger of repentance; but what about ‘joy’? Joy is the note that plays in each of the other scripture readings in the Lectionary for today. Continue reading

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The prophet John—Advent 2, Year C (9 December 2012)

Malachi 3.1-4
Luke 3.1-6

Did you notice how Luke chapter 3 begins? It begins with a number of names, in fact the names of seven VIPs. Listen again:

In the fifteenth year of the rule of the emperor Tiberius—when Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea and Herod was ruler over Galilee, his brother Philip was ruler over Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was ruler over Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas…

Luke is setting the scene here and letting us know just when all this was happening; with the detail Luke provides, we can date it around AD 28–29.

What happened in AD 28 or 29, according to Luke? Nothing that Pilate, Herod, Philip or the others were concerned about—at first. It was this:

…God’s word came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

Herod would have dismissed this. Caiaphas would have sniffed. It would be beneath Pilate to even think about it. Who cares if someone called John thinks he hears from God?

A number of books in the Bible start in that way, with a list of names. Can you think of any?

Luke goes on to quote Isaiah; how does Isaiah start? Listen:

The vision about Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah, Amoz’s son, saw in the days of Judah’skings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.

Another list of VIPs, another way of dating Isaiah, at least the first 39 chapters of the Book of Isaiah. We can say that this prophet, Isaiah of Jerusalem, heard the word of the Lord in the eighth century BC.

The Book of Isaiah begins in a pretty standard way for a prophetic book. If you look at other Old Testament prophets, quite a few also begin this way, situating themselves in history. So when Luke chooses the same way to begin his story of John the Baptist, what is he saying? Just this: like Isaiah before him, John was a prophet. A prophet is someone who hears what God is saying, and then speaks that word to others.

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If it’s December, it must be…Advent!—Advent 1, Year C (2 December 2012)

Jeremiah 33.14-16
Luke 21.25-36

Well, it’s December and what does that make you think of? Yes, Christmas. We can’t put off thinking about it any longer.

What do you think of first when you think of Christmas? For most of us, most of the time it’s not the coming of Jesus into the world. Oh yes, we think of that all right, but first we think of

  • buying presents
  • getting presents
  • getting the Christmas meal together
  • decorating the house
  • whose place will Christmas be at this year?
  • will Uncle Fred drink too much Christmas cheer again?
  • will Auntie Madge and Cousin Dot put aside their differences this year?
  • oh, and did I say buying pressies?

Christmas isn’t always a time of perfect bliss. Come to think of it, it’s more often a time of irritation. We tend to have this script inside us that Christmas has to be flawless; when it isn’t, some of us tend to play the blame game, whether we blame ourselves or someone else.

That’s why we really need Advent.

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