Homily – Sunday, the 4th December 2022
Reading: Matthew 3:1-11
Prepare the Way!!!
If I ask you how the preparation for Christmas is coming up I am sure we would be excited about the answers.
But if I ask you how are you preparing for Christ- the answer might not be that easy to come
Today we read of how Matthew was preparing the way for the Son of Man to begin his ministry
One of the skills of Matthew is to draw beautiful pictures with words. Pictures each one of us would be able to understand and enjoy
For this morning meditation I would like to draw your attention to a few pictures from the gospel lesson that was read to us. The beauty of pictures is that it appeals differently to different people. The imagery that strikes one might not strike another the same way. I would therefore help you visualise the picture, make a comment on what I think appeals to me and leave it open ended for you to make your own observations. At the end of the day you could take one of these images to ponder further.
Picture 1- A Different Man
Quite many People are involved in this preparation for the kingdom of the Messiah
Here is a man, his attire was different, his abode was different, his food habits were different and his mission was different- Preparing the Way of the Lord.
He was engaged in something very different- baptism of repentance
Mission is all about. People. People with a Message
John the Baptist was one on whose birth his father had a great dream, understanding the plan of God in his life
He grew or was brought up in the light of the plan of God
He is now in the wilderness crying out- Prepare ye the way of the Lord in fulfilment of the Prophesy
What does this man teach us about preparing the Way
Do not forget the core message of Christmas- Behold the Lamb of God
A Story is said about a nativity scene. All preparations were made. Even the cattle and the sheep was ready but at the last moment there was panic- what will we do about Christ the baby. They had even forgotten the doll.!!
Here is the voice very clear- Prepare the way of the Lord.
Advent is all about preparing the way.
Picture 2 – Brood of Vipers
Look at this picture- brood of vipers fleeing from the upcoming wrath
Our elder generations had a much better grasp of nature than we do. They would look at the movement of the birds and predict rain correctly.
In contexts where there are wild fires, people would watch the movement of the animals and when they notice a mass exodus in panic- they realise danger is following them and could swallow them anytime.
One of the earliest to sense this danger they say are the snakes and they flee in broods to safety.
The Baptist notices the people coming to baptised. He sees that as a positive step. To be able to flee from possible destruction.
This is the preparation- being aware of the aftermath if you do not take the kingdom possibilities seriously. It is not a threat but a call to repent, change ways and start afresh
(Beware of Rabbits).
The Lion realised that it is becoming more and more difficult to hunt and one day got an idea, He made friends with a rabbit who came under his paw. He said- I will spare you but instead you should do something for me. Just lure small animals and bring them to my cave. The rabbit agreed.
The next day he went to a little deer. Talked to him about the excitements within the forest that he was not aware of. Invited him to come and try. The deer did and never came back.
This became a norm and one day the wise monkey decided to find out why the animals going into the forest are not returning and followed the rabbit. To his surprice he saw the animals lured into the lions den
Next time the rabbit came to town the monkey cried out- Beware of the Rabbit
Friends we are used to hear- Beware of the Wild. Would you expect danger in the garb of the rabbit?
Destruction takes forms that sometimes we do not comprehend
The Brood of Vipers could see what was in the horizon.
Picture 3 – Bearing Fruits
The next picture is about bearing fruits
The Baptist was calling for repentance. Turning back from evil ways or ungodly ways.
The best way to prepare for the coming kingdom is to bear fruits worthy of repentance
What is repentance? It is turning back to God.
What are the fruits of repentance
Traditionally we are taught the fruits of repentance include
- Godly Sorrow
- Genuine Regret
- Heart to recompense and reconcile
- New Beginning- (palin genesia)
- Love for the Lord and for each other
- Hope, Peace, Faith, truth
- The willingness to let go
During floods sometimes several things come floating down the river. One day a young boy saw a black blanket floating down. As soon as he saw it- he wanted to jump and fetch it. But the elders who knew the gravity of the current told him not to. He was however confident of his strength and jumped. As he was drifting down people shouted- Let go and swim to safety. But he said- I did let go- but it is not letting me go. They soon realised it was a wild bear
You need to let go if you want to start afresh
Advent is call to repentance and to bear fruits worthy of repentance
Picture 4 – Children from stones
Yesterday at the Men’s Breakfast we had a discussion on Unity and Love and we talked about going to church as a faith habit.
One of the discussion points was that When uncertainties come our way- some people panic and some people rest assured in God. Faith is an important element there. And suddenly the doctor in the group said For me it is more a question of genes than faith.
Faith of parents can surely be a protective shield for children but that cannot have definitive influence of the children’s faith responses as they grow competent to make their own choices.
Parents could be full of faith but children need not be.
The Baptist here says- do not make claims of your heritage- nor should you think God is dependant on you. God can make children from stones.
John’s point is don’t live in the false security of ancestor’s faith- you will have to figure out your faith responses
God does not have grandchildren- only children.
That is why nurturing our children is all about pointing them to Christ
The best version of the Bible still remains the gospel according to my parents
When you think about preparing for Advent- it is about your preparation not about the Christmas market in town, the Christmas decorations of the neighbour, nor about your Christmas celebration plans- Its about you and Christ- the centre of Christmas
Picture 5 – Baptism with Fire
The kingdom life is a life in the Spirit
I wrote to my brother last morning- It is very cold. He sent a Smylie and responded- Be the Fire.
Baptism in Fire- warms you up
It lights you up to lighten the corners where you are.
It brightens you to radiate the glory of God wherever you are.
John points to Christ and boldly affirms- he will baptise you in the Spirit and in Fire
The Old Man and His Fire
The Shopkeeper by the village used to wait for the last bus to close his shop, He would then have a fire lit to give him light all the way home and people would follow him
As time passed by he became fragile and he almost lost his sight. Yet he would go to the shop.
As he was lighting his fire one day- his son who used to accompany him home asked- Father you cannot see but why do you light the fire
Father said- This Light is not for me but for others to see the way and that is the best way to prepare for the kingdom
It is being present instead of buying presents
It is about wrapping someone with a hug rather than wrapping your Chris Cringle
It is about sending peace more than sending gifts
It is about sharing food rather than shopping for exotic food
It is about being the Light rather than enjoying the lights around
It is about being the guiding start rather than a tech saavy star at home
Its about being the fire
Picture 6 – Axe on the foot of the tree
John is trying to let the people know- PLEASE DO NOT TAKE OPPORTUNITIES FOR GRANTED
We have the image where a tree that was not serving its purpose was ordered to be cut down by the owner. But the garden keeper pleads- Please one more year. Let me try. If not then we shall look at it.
Each new day is a gift of grace
Each new day is a gift of great possibilities
Each new day you can create miracles around you
Each new day you can just let it go by
Making no impact
The Axe at the root of the tree is a painful image but in some cases inevitable image.
When we talk about preparation for the kingdom one word we need to consider is procrastination
I know that I should be doing something better- but not today!!!
Let next Christmas come- God willing I will think of Christ and Christ made manifest in the pain and suffering of the people around us.
The Shoe Box stories of how Christmas gifts impacted lives. My Bishop once did a contest for kids- Write a letter to the Santa. Small little gifts children wanted but their parents could not afford to.
As a young boy asked to pick five most moving letters it was a journey for me into the world of pain that young children live with.
Picture 7 – Winnowing Fork
All discourses across these days pointed at the day of judgement where the wheat and the chaff would be separated
John concludes with an agricultural imagery
After the harvest the winnowing fan or the winnowing fork is used to separate the grain and the chaff
The grain goes to the granary and the chaff to the fire
And the question asked is- why is Jesus carrying the winnowing fork in his hand.
He would surely not want anyone to be destroyed
Jesus with the winnowing fork becomes and powerful imagery for us to look at
Friends it is Christmas Time
We look at Waiting for the Kingdom of Peace!
The magic wand of Christmas is making everything beautiful around us
Can we do a teeny weeny extra bit to make life happier for someone else
4th December 2022