Sunday, December 26, 2010

The other side of Christmas

I am going to ask you to consider the message that we heard from the angels on Christmas Eve… “Do not be afraid…” Perhaps it is not the first thing we think of when we think of Christmas and the great celebration. It has been my experience that as soon as we sit there in the midst of a stack of gifts and a pile of wrapping paper, we begin to think if not to operate as if Christmas is finally over and we can start getting back to some form of normalcy. After all we have been dealing with all this since the first of November haven’t we? Too often, we are ready to put our Christmas away the tree and the decorations. We fail to consider the other side of Christmas.

I read somewhere recently that 30 years ago that school age children had certain fears: (1) animals, (2) being in a dark room, (3) high places, (4) strangers, and (5) loud noises. Do you know what children these days fear? (1) divorce, (2) nuclear war, (3) cancer, (4) pollution and (5) being mugged. So think in this moment we need to ask ourselves, “What do we fear? What do we fear knowing that we are on the other side of Christmas?” we would move heaven and earth to help our children to feel safe and secure. We would work our fingers to the bone to make sure that we give them a good place to live and food to eat and to try and remove anything that might make them afraid.

This thinking brings us to Joseph of Nazareth. He has had to move through lots, especially if it were to be found out that he wasn’t the father of Mary’s baby. He was afraid of what people in the community were already thinking, seeing Mary with child before they came together. It was too much. He had decided to quietly end the betrothal stage of their marriage. Then God stepped in through Joseph’s dreams and encouraged him to have faith… to trust in what was happening because the child to be born was going to need him and his faith. Joseph listen to the news of his dream, changed his mind and remained faithful to his vows and to Mary. In being faithful, Joseph in his own way helped God to bring about the birth of Christ in the way that honoured what had been spoken of so long ago.

The magi who came seeking Jesus and who had heralded the news to Herod the Great that the real king of the Jews had been born and in Bethlehem. The magi were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod and tell him more. They changed the path of their journey and so protected the child they had found and his parents from what was to happen next.          

In the days right after Jesus’ birth Joseph had another dream, that he was to take the child and his mother and go hastily to Egypt, to a place of safety so that they could wait out what was to come next. Joseph was obedient to what he heard in his dream and so Jesus was protected against the jealousy and rage of Herod. Some might ask about the children of Bethlehem who had to face the rage, why were they protected. It is a good and reasonable question and one that is hard to find an answer to; or at least answer that is not trite. Of this I am certain, it is why Jesus came. And those children have not been taken from God though their lives were ended in a blaze of fear and hatred of one man who thought he was the rightful king and that no one was going to usurp his power and throne.

After Herod’s death Joseph was commanded to bring the child home to Israel. The wait must not have been too long for Jesus was still only a little boy. Joseph was warned not to go back to Bethlehem and so he took Mary and Joseph to Nazareth.

Now you might wonder what all of this means to you personally and to us as a church? Christmas is a season of dreams and we need to listen and be obedient to them. If one man, being obedient to what we hear from God can protect the life of his family what can God do with a Church that is doing the same thing. There are many things that we might fear as a Church – failure in particular. This moment is a signal from God that we are to stop and to listen to what he is saying to each and to all of us, that we would hear and obey him. This is life on the other side of Christmas! When we stop to consider that our lives are not that different from the life of Jesus, that God desires to fulfill both his will and his promises in us, that we are in his care and keeping to make that happen, isn’t that good news? We need to recognize that we and others are going to resist some times what God calls on us to do. Like Joseph we have to learn to listen and then to change and then to obey.

We also need to recognize that our Canadian society is fearful of what Christ (and his Church) are going to subvert the order of their lives, taking away their power and their order – that the Church is going to upset the world in favour of a better order – God’s order. Yet we through our Christmas faith continue to believe that God has the ability to reign in a world where the dominance of the proud and the powerful seems apparently unshakable. We trust that what has been spoken by God has and is being fulfilled and that what has been promised is being made reality both in us and through us in the world. Here on the other side of Christmas, we can not only dream the dreams we can hear and respond to God that the world of Christmas would be fulfilled and finished, in God’s way, in God’s time. And that is something worth celebrating.   

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Make way for the King!

Royalty makes for great characters in dramatic narratives. Unwedded pregnancies to young women in small town, And yet, here is one such young couple from the out of the way places who find themselves having to make a long and dangerous trip to his home town so that they can be properly registered with the government so that they can be counted and taxed. To make matters harder, the conception was virginal and caused by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Mary and Joseph are very deep into their faith. Both have worked hard to be faithful and to do what God has asked of them in their lives. The news of the baby’s coming is a shock. Sure they had planned to have kids but not until after the wedding. Anyone finding out that they weren’t fully married would have asked some hard and difficult, even embarrassing questions. Yet Mary and Joseph are prepared to welcome this little one into their lives and to be faithful to him as his parents. It is not only the right thing to do, it is the godly thing. And after all, they did go on to have the wedding and to have more children of their own. So they lived “normal” lives afterwards, didn’t they?

It is important for us to recognize that God has a plan for us – corporately as community and as individuals. God has desires for us just as we have desires for our lives and things that we want to do and accomplish. So does God. There are things that God wants to accomplish not only for us but also for himself. God desires to retrieve, redeem, and recreate his creation. We look at all this and then look at the child he sent to do this thing and we find it all, well unexpected if not a tad disconcerting. More importantly though, are we going to allow ourselves to open up and receive the Christ child into our own lives as Mary and Joseph did? Are we going to be willing to take the risks that come with being associated with this Child bring in this day and age? Like Mary and Joseph, we have opportunities to decide whether we will accept or reject Jesus when he comes to us. We will have choices to make. And we need to recognize that each decision carried with it consequences. The news of the coming birth would have been news for certain – but what about how people responded?

The annual celebration of this great feast does not mean that God was “one and done” and that Jesus now sits in a heavenly chair, watching as we struggle along… by no means! Christmas reminds us that God is active in the world today to change lives, starting with you and with me. Christmas reminds us that God is faithful to all of his promises and is working to see them fulfilled. And because this is so we are not left alone. God is faithful and keeps his word, even if it is not done as fast as we would like to see it happen. Redemption of this world is at hand and it is nearer now than it was a year ago. God is at work and calls us to join in.

God comes to us in deep humility and calls us in great vulnerability to come and follow him. We should also acknowledge that it is good staging on God’s part. After all, what can more easily move or if necessary melt the human heart than the face of a child? What relationship can see and make more change in the life of one human than that of friendship with another human being? The trees, the lights, the presents, the faces of family and friends are all signs of the hearts and lives that God is moving and drawing to the kingdom.

So this Christmastide, let us make the season about more not less – more presence not less. Let those who are close to you and near to you in the community see and feel the presence of the Child who was born for all of us in Bethlehem. Maybe some of them will see and hear him for the first time. They will find his actions unexpected. Perhaps they encounter the love of their new born king. Tell them that God has made them some promises and that he wants to be faithful to those promises and to them. Then be ready to pray and to expect the unexpected presence of Christ himself. Be ready to respond with Good News! Oh and make way for the King!

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Fear Not" A Christmas Sermon from Canterbury

There seems to be a great wealth of sermon material for this time of year. I found the following sermon from his Grace, Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury. Make sure you read it all! 
'Fear not', says the angel to Joseph, to Mary, to the shepherds. It is recurring motif in the Christmas stories, and a significant reminder that the overwhelming news of God the Saviour's coming is both all that the human heart could hope for and also something that powerfully disrupts the way the world goes and the way our lives go. There is something to be afraid of in the renewal of a world: I may not welcome being reconstructed or interrupted.
Religious commitment of any depth is bound to say to the world around it that the assumptions and habits of that world are not beyond question. It isn't all that surprising if a secular environment looks at religion not only with suspicion or incomprehension but with fear. The proposal to ban Muslim headscarves in French schools suggests that there is still a nervousness about letting commitment show its face in public, lest ground be given to some threatening irrational power that will take over the world of reasonable people. President Chirac himself has defended the proposal by claiming that a school must be a 'republican sanctuary' in which children are protected from the cold winds of sectarianism while they absorb the proper values of their society. Religious belief is not banned, but its outward expression – the crucifix on the wall as much as the headscarf - has to be strictly controlled so that the purity of the nation's values may be preserved. Faith must be invisible.
And at the same time, the Chief Rabbi of France encourages the men of his congregations to avoid wearing the skull cap in public because of the spiralling of anti-Semitic incidents. There's more than one reason for religious commitment to be made invisible; sometimes invisibility is sought. Here, then, are two quite different aspects of the public face of religious belief and the complex reactions and feelings it produces – a secular world determined to protect itself against any show of religious faith; a religious community fearful about proclaiming its identity in public because of hatred towards its members. Different problems, different motivations; but behind both lies one central and urgent challenge to do with the public face of religious belief in the modern world.
For all our talk about pluralism, many still feel in all kinds of ways uncomfortable when religion makes a visible difference in public life – so that in turn religious people may feel excluded or threatened if they are visibly identified as members of a community of faith. Discomfort about religion or about a particular religion may be the response of an educated liberal or, at the opposite extreme, the unthinking violence of an anti-Semite; it isn't easy to face the fact that sometimes the effects are similar for the believer. And in case we think the whole debate is just a French problem, we should recognise just a little of the same unease in the nervous sniggering about the Prime Minister's religious faith which ripples over the surface of the media from time to time, or in the blustering irritation aroused by something like Joanna Jepson's whistleblowing about our assumptions around abortion.
The fear of faith itself is part of what can breed fear in a vulnerable or minority community, of whatever tradition. And before we rise up and angrily deplore this, it's worth pausing to ask just why faith provokes such a passionate protectiveness. Historically, the answer, is, alas, that religious faith has too often been the language of the powerful, the excuse for oppression, the alibi for atrocity. It has appeared as itself intolerant of difference (hence the legacy of anti-Semitism), as a campaigning, aggressive force for uniformity, as a self-defensive and often corrupt set of institutions indifferent to basic human welfare. That's a legacy that dies hard, however much we might want to protest that it is far from the whole picture. And it's given new life by the threat of terror carried out in the name of a religion – even when representatives of that religion at every level roundly condemn such action as incompatible with faith.
The believer says to the secular world, 'Don't be afraid!' Yet religion has appeared as something fighting to take over territory in the human soul and the human world – an empire pushing at the frontiers, struggling to defeat the independence and dignity of people. You may remember Swinburne's famous lines – 'Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean! The world has grown grey with thy breath.' That sums up what a great many people at least half believe. It comes from a highly selective version of history, yet it has enough plausibility to need an answer at the very deepest level.
And this is what our Christmas story and our Christmas faith offer. Why should Joseph and Mary and the shepherds not be afraid? Because what happens when God comes to earth is not something like the first landing of an occupying army, the first breach in our defences by a powerful enemy who wants to take all that is ours. The truth is as different as could be; and the clue is in those simple words, simple words that invite a lifetime's joyful reflection, 'The Word was made flesh'.
When God comes among us, he doesn't first of all clear humanity out of the way so that he can take over; he becomes a human being. He doesn't force his way in to dominate and crush; he announces his arrival in the sharp, hungry cry of a newborn baby. He changes the world not by law and threat but by death and resurrection. Robert Southwell's poem wonderfully captures this overturning of all our terrors and apprehensions: 'His batt'ring shots are babish cries, His arrows looks of weeping eyes'. And the anonymous mediaeval lyric puts it unforgettably: 'He came al so stille, Where his mother was, As dew in Aprille, That falleth on the grass'.
He comes in stillness. He comes in dependency and weakness. He comes by God's absolutely free gift. Yet he comes from the heart of our own human world and life, from the womb of a mother, from the free love of Mary's heart given to God in trust. And this is mysteriously the same thing as his 'coming down from heaven'. He is utterly different, the human being who lives God's own life; he is utterly the same, like us in all things, as the Bible says.
The manner of his coming tells us so many things – but not the least is that human nature, bruised and disfigured as it is by sin, is still capable of bearing the life of God. In the birth of God in flesh and blood, we see what we were made to be – carriers of divine love. And with this birth we begin our journey back to where we belong, back to God, back to what we were made to be. To live in peace and delight with God does not mean that our humanity has first to undergo such radical surgery that it barely seems human any more, that our nature has to be beaten into submission by a divine aggressor. He came all so still; he came to his own.
Here then is the real Christian response to the modern secular person's fear. God is no hostile alien, snatching away what belongs to us. Faith is not either a perversion of human freedom or a marginal and private eccentricity. It is human freedom raised to its fullest by the fact that God has embraced it in love –'from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace'. The Word, as St John makes plain in this morning's gospel, is no stranger in the world; he is the very centre and energy of creation itself, the heart of every heart.
So Christian faith does not seek to carve out a territory to defend for itself, nor does it look to take over a potentially rebellious world and subdue it by force. It simply witnesses to the world that the world will never be fully itself except in the glad receiving of God's presence and the recognition of the 'true light' at the centre of all human, all created life. If this makes us afraid, the Christian will say, that is because at some level we are afraid of ourselves, of what we really are and might be; afraid of a destiny for human beings more glorious than we could imagine; afraid that we may have to change our lives unrecognisably in order truly to become ourselves.
No, it isn't comfortable, it may be terrifying. 'He came to his own', yes, 'and his own would not receive him' – and 'his own' in this context is all of us who are made in his image and who yet can't cope with his promise. And because we people of faith have so often behaved as though we had never heard or understood the Christmas gospel, we can't expect the secular world to believe us straight away when we say that they have nothing to worry about and that faith is the flowering of human dignity not its opposite. First we have to show that we truly are on the side of humanity – by patient loyalty to people in their need, by courage and sacrifice for the sake of justice, by labour for reconciliation, setting people free from the threat of violence. God comes to 'his own people', religious people, and we have often failed to know or receive him.
And then, supposing we have cleared away the fears that arise from the way religious people have failed to witness fully to their God – then the deeper fears can and do come to the surface, the fears of what faith may demand of a person. Nothing will take away the challenge here; we can only hope that there are enough lives showing joy and humanity to make the challenge worthwhile – lives in which the eternal Word will speak. Such lives will have about them the great mark of God's action in Jesus which is that he doesn't invade, doesn't push us out of the way, doesn't reduce or demean us; he invites, he opens up to us his own infinite hospitality, drawing us into his world, his life. He makes us more than we are, not less. 

And that is what the true person of faith will show in their life. When the life of faith is visible in the public world, it is not something threatening the integrity of the supposedly neutral and obvious moral principles of the secular state; it is a glimpse into the depths of all morality, all principle and commitment, into the depths where the holiness and faithfulness and love of God secretly nourish the essence of human life, that life which is made for the destiny of becoming children of God. It is a glimpse into a richness surrounding all that we are, without which all our vaunted values and principles would soon corrupt and die.

All our great religious traditions say something of this – which is one reason for Christians, Muslims, Jews and others to stand with each other and speak out for each other in times of stress or harassment. Yet the uniqueness of our Christian faith is that it is inscribed for us not only in a text but in a living human presence in which dwells all the fullness of God. We may confidently say to a nervous secular world, 'Fear not!' God is not coming to abolish but to fulfil the hopes of liberty and human dignity. But we ourselves as believers need to hear the same words we speak to others: 'Fear not!' 

We don't have to fight for our claims in such a way that all the world sees is another power-obsessed and anxious human institution; we have only to let the Word be born in us and speak in us. A lifetime's work, but also a moment's gift, in the sudden grasp of the mystery of this celebration of God made human, in the words we hear from the gospel, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist: 'from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.'

© Rowan Williams 2003.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jesus comes - for judgment and for grace

I came across this quote from Bonhoeffer in my reading this week and thought it worth sharing. (For those who do not know, Bonhoeffer was a Christian theologian in Nazi Germany and was executed by the Nazis for his part in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.) 

We have become so accustom to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we longer fell the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.

Only when we have felt the terror of the matter can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses us and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love. God makes us happy only as children can be happy.

God always wants to be with us, wherever we may be – in our sin, in our suffering and death. We are no longer alone. God is with us. We are no longer homeless; a bit of the eternal home has moved into us. Therefore we adults can deeply rejoice within our hearts under the Christmas tree, perhaps much more than the children are able. We know that God’s goodness will once again draw near. We think of all God’s goodness that came our way last year and sense something of this marvelous home. Jesus comes in judgement and grace.

-          Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coming to one's own good senses

What makes for a great story? Is it the writing? is it the well though out plot with credible, well developed characters? It seems that you need a great subject to talk about, perhaps a king or queen? So isn't it interesting that there are no major players except God in the story of the birth of the Son of God. There is an unknown young woman who is pledged to a man in a small town in the northern Israel who are faithful to each other and to God. and because of their courage, their willingness to be servants, we know God and know his Son in our lives. Maybe to illustrate you might watch the link below. It is from A Christmas Carol:    

Christmas is a moment in time for us when we stop to consider that God has come to us. Indeed God does come to us in the person of Jesus Christ and Christ comes to us in deep humility and great vulnerability. After all what can move the heart of a person more than the the face of a new born child? What can possibly affect change in the life of a curmudgeon more than that of a B.F.F. (best friend forever)? 

Let God give you his presence this Christmas that you might go out into all the world both to proclaim that Jesus is born in Bethlehem and that he is living present to us and our community today. Be the presence of God in the places and spaces you will live in this Christmas. Maranatha!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How should God act?

How should God act? Many of us have from time to time wondered if we have believed in vain. We find ourselves in hard spots and in dark times and we wonder, sitting in whatever prison we are locked up in… and we question whether it was worth it or not.  This is where John the Baptizer certainly was when he heard what Jesus was teaching and preaching and doing. Jesus wasn’t acting like the Messiah. He was acting far too weak and wimpy. The Messiah, once he was revealed, should be confronting all the people who were making life difficult for the chosen people kicking butts and taking names – preferably in that order. But Jesus wasn’t doing any of that. So he asked one of his followers to go and speak with Jesus to find out who Jesus really was. Had John made a major mistake? Did he back the wrong horse? He couldn’t help but wonder because he thought God wasn’t acting like himself.  

Advent gives us an opportunity to hear the voice of Jesus and to be more aware of his presence in our lives, both individually and corporately. We need to hear his voice and listen to what he is saying to us. Then we need to start being the people Jesus is calling us to be. This does not mean that we can think of ourselves as better (much less perfect) when comparing with other people; far from it! We are called to live within his will and to do his will in our everyday lives. And as we listen and try to do his will we need to open ourselves to the presence of the Holy Spirit that we would be filled with the strength to serve Christ in our neighbour and clothed with his love that we would make the world aware of how much God loves them. In essence, we need to hear, live, act.

Why is it important to do this? Because we tend to live with the idea in the West that the world is albeit slowly getting better, day by day, day after day. But is it really? We have a lot of technology that can help with life and do things for us but does it fundamentally change who we are as people? Will we ever see the secular utopia that we think we want? The future that God is building in his realm is very different from the one that the world thinks it is coming to. Even in the Church there are great demands made for the Church to be relevant and to “get with the times”. I would rather think that the Church – if it wants to be relevant rather than reactive to the latest trend in society – needs to be what God calls it to be: His own. The Church, in order to be relevant in our current society needs to speak and to demonstrate those things that are consistent with the nature of a holy and loving community because we are in relationship with a holy and loving God. Moreover, the Church needs to be reminded that salvation is a joy to be shared with the world and not just a prize to be won.

Isn’t this why Jesus told the sent disciple to go back to John and tell him that he needs to recognize the presence the kingdom; to know his presence in the world because the blind are gaining their sight, the lame are walking upright, the lepers are being cured, the dead are being raised to life and the Good news of the growing realm of God is being made known to those who desire it and need it. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me telling him to have some patience and wait… the realm of God will come, even if it does not come in the ways and means most expect it to and on human terms.

In this moment, are you willing to continue to believe and to be the person that God has called you to be, hearing his voice, living his life, and acting according to the leading of his Spirit? Are you willing to expect the unexpected from God and live it out? Are we as a church, willing to stake our common life and work to endure for the coming of the full version of the kingdom (in essence, heaven and earth 2.0)? Come and see him who is present in us and is with us, our Immanuel. Then go and share the joy of knowing him with others. And in the going, hear, live and act like God.              

Thursday, December 2, 2010

... In line to see the King

This must be a Sunday for preachers. And I say that in light of who we have to focus on this Sunday in terms of the text: John, the one who baptizes. Which immediately makes me want to stop and ask, “Do you know a preacher when you see one. No doubt that you know a preacher when you hear one, but the rest of the time, would you know a preacher if you saw him or her?

The nation of Israel seemed to know him. The people had not heard such a voice nor had they seen such a sight in 400 years. The prophetic voice reverberated through the cities and towns. The people were drawn to this preacher and his wilderness pulpit, if for no other reason than he had to be seen and heard for one’s self. They came from all over the country to see this man out in the middle of nowhere who was boldly preaching and calling people to repentance – to their Wabush. This man who is dressed in a way that no one else would dress to show that he is different and determined; that he is not afraid to be who he is and to boldly proclaim the message he is sent to bring. This audacious preacher was nowhere near the places of preaching in the city or at the center of religious life. And like any popular preacher he made many glad and many more people mad with what he had to say.

Wherever the preacher John found sin, disorder and evil he confronted it boldly and with great passion. Whether it was in government, in religion or in everyday living he was willing to call people from their complacency to turn around, to see God, and to make their lives different. He did not preach solely a message of condemnation. After all, wouldn’t you run like a snake whose home is being burnt to the ground? Who blames the rat for wanting to get off the ship when it is sinking? The preacher John held out the standard to which all of us are called to live by God and challenged his generation to live the way that God expects them to. It is important to confront sin and evil in our lives. It is also important that we have a standard that we can live up to not just to be told that we are bad and beyond help. John was, in a real sense a light in a dark place, a voice to call people to right living and a sign post to help others to find and know God. He helped people to know the presence of the Messiah. Preacher John pointed his life and his preaching to show people the one true King.

That reminds me… there will be line ups to see Santa Claus over the next few weeks. Who will be lined up to see the King when John points him out. Will we have the courage to seek his presence? Will we go to be with him and to follow him?

And what about us? Have I bothered to preach any of the six sermons that will get me fired? If not, am I doing my job where preaching is concerned? As you and I bring the presence of Christ into this world in this Advent, let us call people to turn around, to see God and to move into his presence. And let us make sure that as we do this, that we do it in genuine love of and for them. Let us come to people in deep humility and true tears know that what we have to offer them is the real presence of the King and his love for them.

Along with everything else you have to offer others, especially those you love, this Christmas offer the presence of yourself to others and in the process, help them to get in line to see Jesus. He came not only with good gifts. He came to offer us his “everything”. Give those you love the presence of Christ this Christmas. Whose going to line up first? Who can hear his voice?

Coming home - Maranatha!

It has been said that, “you can never go home again.” And while there is some truth in such a statement, it also falls short where the Christian faith is concerned. There are lots of songs that we are going to hear in the coming weeks with phrases like, “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me.” Christmas is more likely to register in bank accounts (pun intended!) than it is in the lives of the people around us. And many more will welcome the quiet of the week after Christmas because of the blitz that most of us have endured since All Saints Day. That is if they are not out to Boxing Day Sales, bravely hunting with the crowds for more bargains and treasures for another occasion including next Christmas. Somehow it seems as though we have tried to fill that emptiness we feel inside ourselves with everything the but the One presence we really need. That’s why I believe there are still lots of people who make the effort to go to Church services that one night of the year. People pause for a moment to see if there is something more to Christmas than what they have been able to find at Wal-Mart™. In some sense they are looking to go home again but have forgotten their ruby red, glass slippers!

If we are to come home again we need, as Church to believe and to know that the purpose of Christmas is to change lives; that the presence of Christ does make a difference in the world to enable change. And if change is still possible then that means life as usual will not be possible. But where does it all start? Believe it or not, it starts with you and me. We have to be willing like Isaiah to stop and see the coming King and his approaching kingdom. We need to be ready to live in the light. We need recognize that Christ is the light and that we are called to live in his light. This means we need to actively look for him not just passively peruse the glitz, glamour and glitter in front of us.

Isaiah demands that we see past all that the world has to offer to gain a fresh sight of what it is that God is calling us to so that we can be enabled to help God draw into this world the coming kingdom. We are called to take a step back and look at the big picture to see what God is doing in all the world and what God might do in the future so that we can be ready and participate in the things God calls us to do.

The coming of Christ into the world means that life in the Church cannot be business as usual. We are his hands, his feet, his face and his heart in the world. We are the ones who bring Jesus in to the places and spaces of our community. We cannot expect to live in the field of dreams anymore where we can build a building and expect people to come and fill it. We as the Body of Christ must reach out and be real with those around us so that we can draw them into Christ and into our fellowship.

This Christmas, in the midst of your business, remember to give the most important thing you can give – presence! His presence! Make his presence known for the sake of the world and the coming of his kingdom. He is coming home again and soon. Maranatha!