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At his baptism in the Jordan river, Christ immerses himself in our broken humanity, healing the great divide and uniting what is human with what is divine. This is the spiritual reality of baptism: You are now indelibly marked with the divine, and united with God in Christ.
On the Feast of Epiphany, as we celebrate the journey of the Magi to worship the infant Christ, we are also reminded that our lives are a similar spiritual journey. So at the beginning of this new year, this new decade: How can we faithfully navigate our way through life? How can we guided and sustained as we journey onwards? And what does it mean to reach our destination, our journey’s end?
In today’s gospel reading, with Christmas just around the corner, we get our first glimpse of Mary and Joseph, and their obedience to God’s unfolding plan for the salvation of the world. How can we, like them, hear and understand God’s call on us in our lives? And what does it mean to respond in obedience?
The task given to John the Baptist, who appears in this morning’s gospel reading for the first time this Advent, is to “Prepare the way of the Lord” amongst the people. And in today’s collect, which we’ve just prayed together, we asked for God to ‘purify our hearts and minds’ in order that ‘we might be ready to receive him [Christ], who is our Lord and our God.’ So what does it mean for us to prepare our hearts and minds this Advent? And how can we, as Christ’s Church, be ‘ready to receive him’ when he appears?
In today’s readings for Advent Sunday, we are introduced to the great Advent imagery of the Old and New Testaments — contrasting themes of darkness and light, night and day, and in particular, sleeping and waking. The prophet Isaiah, the apostle Paul and Jesus himself warn us ‘wake up’ and be prepared for Christ’s coming. So what does it mean for us today to live as ‘Advent Christians’, to be those who are awake in a slumbering world?
What does it mean to be persistent in prayer? Does God even answer our prayers? And, when we are in desperate straits, facing impossible circumstances, how can we draw on our faith to sustain us?
I often think about how we as a church can be there for people in need. How we can be more inclusive, more welcoming. And how we can be there for those who feel like outsiders. We can all have times when we feel like the outsider. I know there are times when I have made others feel like the outsider. The offer of healing is to be experienced today, but how can healing make space for the outsider?
If our sight is focused on our personal, physical wellbeing, then our spending, our bank balances, will follow. If, however we have caught a greater vision, a picture of God’s kingdom, then the way we use our resources will shift. We realise that we are not our own masters, but entrusted as managers — or stewards — of God’s resources.
‘All are welcome’ — words we sang a few moments ago. But words which are very often much easier to say or sing than they are to live and practice. So, as we reflect on this morning’s readings, how can we practice welcoming hospitality to others, especially those who are different from us? How can we truly ‘welcome all’?
When we trust that God is actually truly good, then we can believe that God wants only the best for us. And when we see through God’s eyes, we can let go of where we are now in order to journey towards the plan that God has for us. We can live now, in the light of eternity.
‘How much is enough?’ — this is often our question when it comes to money, especially since we live increasingly in a world of consumerism, where we’re bombarded with messages telling us we need more. So what does a Christian attitude to wealth and money, grounded in Jesus’ teachings, look like in today’s world? Rather than focusing on the scarcity of resources, or what might happen tomorrow, how can we live our lives grounded and rooted in the generosity of God? Is it possible to live a different kind of life, set free from financial worries in order to live simply and love generously?
I’m sure that, if we’re all honest with ourselves, we can think of plenty of examples where we’ve ‘passed by ‘on the other side’, as our gospel reading this morning describes it in the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. So, as we consider this morning’s readings — how can we learn to love our neighbour more fully as Christ has taught us?