This morning we have the star, and the magi and their faith; they live before us; we can see their hope and their wonder and their journey. And right here at the beginning of the story we hear the promise: this is the path that leads to joy.
And in the night, a child’s voice rises. In the night a baby crying, a mother singing, a father full of wonder standing by. One small family and a few shepherds in the quiet of the night—and in this ordinary, an explosion of light, the night sky lit by the angels of God, the armies of heaven singing glory to God and news of peace on earth. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. It is here that it begins—not with Caesar and his power, but with a mother who heard God’s word and said “Yes,” with the father who stood by her, and with the child who was born.
Mary was on all counts a person of no particular account. She was no king like David. And yet it was in her that God’s Word came to fruition. Why? Because she waited upon the Word, and when it came she said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.” She did not set out to build God a house. It was God who reached out and touched her, who claimed her in his Word and for his Word, who made his dwelling place in her.
Repent, because there is a problem, because there is a power of sin in your lives…And if we think that we are innocent—as, increasingly, the finger-pointers seem to think; if we think wrong is something only other people do, think again.
Advent is a time for people who need hope. Advent is a time for people who know that all is not well, who feel it in their heart of hearts, who wake in the night sometimes with a cry. All flesh is grass! My life is dried up; I do not know what it means anymore. Our lives are gone astray in all the holly jolly, and I cannot hear, I cannot see what is good.
Does it make sense to invite us to immerse ourselves in our deepest dissatisfactions? Yet, for 4 weeks in Advent, this is exactly what we do as a people.
While all around us, the lights, the bells, the “good cheer”, telling us to feel happy and spend money; all is well with the economy and with us. But for 4 weeks, as a Christian people, we say, “in our souls we know better: it is not well with us”.
We must decide to love even when our circumstances are not in favour of us. We must decide to love even when we do not agree with the other person. We must decide to love no matter what. We make a judgment to do what is best for those we decide to love, and we promise to stay in love unconditionally. Such a love is an art, making time to share the burden of the other person, creating space to see the inner beauty of the other person.
Like Babel, the Church today lies in ruins divided between different families. Unable to communicate with one another, we are not a great nation. And that’s because Christians are no less tempted to “make a name for themselves,” like the Babylonians, rather than receive a name like Abraham.
Joy is so elusive when we seek it for ourselves, when we seek it in ourselves, when it is something we try to make by our own efforts. It doesn’t last; it doesn’t satisfy. So we buy another car, or a bigger TV; we get a better job, a bigger job. Joy as product, something that we should grasp. This joy does not last.
We are saved as we are found in Christ, as we forsake our security, our achievements—all that we have and all that we are—to know Christ because they are worthless before him. Suffering comes with this recognition first because it invites us into the truth about ourselves and then because it invites us onto the self-sacrificial way of Christ.