Thursday, 20 December 2012

Advent 4: Judged by a baby in a cave


This morning, I asked some children from Victoria School what they would do to celebrate the biggest event in all history. Where would they hold the party? Whom would they invite? What would they come as?

Well, if our little dears had been God, we would have ended up with Jesus coming to earth in Buckingham Palace, or perhaps Kidscape, with Justin Bieber and New Direction as the VIP guests. Oh, and He would have come as an alien. What a party.

When God really did come to earth, when the One beyond time and space broke into our world, He came to a cave in a little-known town called 'Bethlehem,' which was about as famous as Potten End. He came as a powerless baby, and the only people there were his mother Mary and her husband. Other than them, the only witnesses were animals. Hardly A-list celebrities, and neither a spot of bling nor a Power Ranger in sight.

The Collect for this Sunday illustrates the paradox of the baby born of a homeless woman in a cave, who will yet ultimately be our judge. Unlike on celebrity panel shows, such as Britain's Got Talent, the X-Factor or whatever's in vogue for now, when He judges us there will be no points for showing off, and no reward for fame or wealth. God's standards are the standards of a dirty baby born in a cattle-trough, and the reward is reserved for those who can show Him the sort of love His mother did that night.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Advent 2: Make Straight the Path in the Desert


One of the desert fathers of ancient Christian Egypt tells a story of three brothers from the same village. All three determine to give their lives in service of Christ. The first, inspired by Christ's healing ministry, goes into medicine. The second, following Christ's proclamation that 'blessed are the peacemakers,' goes out among the various warlords suing for peace. The third, however, inspired by Christ's frequent retreats into prayer alone, takes himself deep into the desert to live as a hermit.

Some years pass. The first brother, who has worked tirelessly among the sick, finds that the sick keep coming, and he cannot heal them all; the second finds that however much he brokers peace, the wars around him continue. Exhausted, drained, they go to find their brother in the desert.

They tell him their troubles. Saying nothing, he takes a flask of water from its hanging, and pours it into a bowl. "What can you see?" he asks. But they can see nothing through the murk of the swilling water. Their brother tells them to wait. Gradually, the water settles and goes clear, as the dust in it separates out and sinks to the bottom. "When you are so busy," says the hermit, "you cannot see Christ clearly, and you cannot see your sins."

This Sunday marks St John the Baptist's Advent call to repentance of our sins. Despite the temptation to rush and 'get things done' before Christmas, we must take the time to reflect steadily and honestly on whatever is clouding our vision from the glory of Christ.