27 November 2022
27 November 2022
Reading: Matthew 24: 36-44 (NRSVA):
[Jesus said:] 36 ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
The First Sunday of Advent reminds us of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, our fathers and mothers or ancestors in the community or family of faith.
Often these were people who were on the move in times of trouble, upheaval and of danger. Think of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah – often on the move, facing long journeys, but always journeying with God.
It is worth asking: ‘If a fire broke out in your house, what three possessions would you grab?’ Many rectors/vicars have asked this question as they prepared their sermons on this Gospel theme, and the answers they get are interesting.
People include their laptops, their family photographs, their phones, their keys, their wallets or purses, cash or money, plastic cards, passports ... the family pet?
What would you take?
If you were forced to leave your home, or found yourself suddenly forced to abandon all that gave you security, would they really be worth taking?
Laptops are easily damaged, phones need to be charged and don’t always work in other countries, keys to an abandoned home no longer have any use, photographs fade, cash or money from an unstable country quickly loses value.
What would you take with you?
What do we cling to?
Anyone with an interest in old banknotes knows how it became meaningless to be a millionaire or even a multimillionaire in Weimar Germany, war-time Greece or Ceausescu’s Romania. They were in circulation at times when inflation became rampant in times of crisis in Europe. Had they been spent at the time they were issued they might have bought something of value; had they been given away in their day, they might have helped the poor and the hungry.
But circumstances saw to it that those who became attached to their wealth on paper would lose all they had. The Gospel reading this morning (Matthew 24: 36-44) challenges us to think again about what we cling to and what are our true values.
When our prosperity and wealth disappear, like the fast-fading value of old banknotes, are we in danger of feeling abandoned by God?
How would we grab our faith and take it with us if we rushed to escape a crisis?
What do you take with you on a journey?
Christ reminds those who are listening of the story of Noah. What Noah took with him on the ark is a reminder not only to anticipate our own future and our own needs to ensure that security, but to think of the needs of all life, of all creation.
Seasoned travellers know how to pack their bags.
What are the essential items you pack in your case?
Is it a small bag for an overhead cabin on a budget airline flight and a short overnight stay?
Or is it a large suitcase or two for a two-week holiday, filled with towels, sun cream and swimwear?
The list of essentials grows longer and longer as we think about it: passport, toothbrush, plastic cards, phone chargers, presents for hosts and friends, and changes of clothes and sandals, laptop, more than enough reading … so much more than we ever need or use.
Do you then regret having packed too much when you find there is not enough room for them on the way back because of restrictions on overhead bags?
What do you think Mary and Joseph took with them for the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem?
Did they have enough to cope on finding there was no room for them in the inn?
Did they have enough with them when they made the next journey, from Bethlehem to Egypt?
Who helped them to find the missing necessities in Bethlehem, or in Egypt?
Mass migration is major problem in the world today. Politicians seem to want us to think it is a problem for us here. But the people who suffer most are the people on the move themselves, children, women and men.
They cannot take with them what they need, never mind what they want.
On the journey, they face many threats and dangers, from exploitation and violence to extortion and human trafficking.
Of course, if they were Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child, we would want to reach out and help to meet their needs.
USPG and the Church of North India sees the faces of Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child in the people being helped through this year’s Advent and Christmas appeal.
This is the Advent Hope and the Christmas present we can offer this year.
This is the First Sunday of Advent. Later today, I hope to be present at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford, and at the Advent Carol Service there later this evening.
But, before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.
During Advent, I am reflecting in these ways:
1, The reading suggested in the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced by Lichfield Cathedral this year;
2, praying with the Lichfield Cathedral Devotional Calendar;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’
Matthew 24: 36-44 (NRSVA):
[Jesus said:] 36 ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’
The Lichfield Cathedral Devotional Calendar:
Ask for grace to keep Advent well – alertness to what’s going on around us, ready to see signs of God’s kingdom in people, events, in the readiness to cooperate with his will.
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
O Lord our God,
make us watchful and keep us faithful
as we await the coming of your Son our Lord;
that, when he shall appear,
he may not find us sleeping in sin
but active in his service
and joyful in his praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin
to the light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
USPG Prayer at Lighting the Advent wreath, Candle 1 (Purple):
as we remember the Patriarchs and Matriarchs at the beginning of Advent,
we recall their journeys in faith.
Guard and protect all who make journeys into the unknown,
Lighten their paths,
fill them with faith and hope, and help us to respond to their needs. Amen.
USPG Prayer Diary:
The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘World Aids Day.’ This theme is introduced this morning with a report from the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe:
‘The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe joined in World Aids Day 2021 with its theme ‘End Pandemic, End Inequality, End AIDS’, and continues to confront the inequalities brought about by HIV-related stigma and discrimination, by empowering those living with HIV/PLHIV to improve their household incomes and nutrition, thereby boosting adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) it further challenges the inequalities that drive the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
‘Preaching the Gospel of love and inclusivity, the Church took the opportunity at the World AIDS Day commemoration to share with the public, government officials and stakeholders its efforts to address inequalities brought about by stigma and discrimination. It continues to play a significant role in the response to HIV and the Covid-19 pandemic which disrupted gains made through its HIV programme.
‘Despite the challenges, the programme has seen positive results. More people in the Church are opening up about their HIV status, the income generating projects are empowering those with HIV as well as improving their nutrition, and the dedication of Church leaders is significantly contributing to the HIV response. With a recent upsurge of young people abusing drugs in the country and being more at risk of HIV infection, the Church is being sought to lead and give direction.’
The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:
O come thou Dayspring, come and cheer, our spirits by thine advent here; disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight. (based on the ancient Advent Antiphons).
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org