Sunday 18 December 2016        Advent 4
What can anyone say in this run up to the pre-Christian midwinter festival, when Christmas music has been played in bus stations for a month already, coloured lights glimmering from windows, cards arriving; even presents? Who are music, the lights, the presents, for? Are they really for the Christ child? 

How many celebrating will actually go to the services that clergy almost kill themselves to put on? Midnight? Of the Dawn? In the morning? Mattins? Evensong? Not to mention carol services, christingles etc?  It's pre-Christian observances that not only survive but flourish year by year.

Switch back over 2,000 years to Palestine : what were they doing then? They were waiting for a Saviour, a Messiah, a new Moses, a new Joshua; they were pretty desperate: "Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Sion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation, our holy and beautiful house where our fathers praised thee".

Palestine Israel is stable for the moment but the Middle East hasn't changed a lot. People don't flee, abandon everything, risk drowning, for no reason

Over 2000 years ago, they all believed in one God or another. Israel clung to hope of Divine intervention, in the birth of God's chosen one. So that's what they were expecting, praying for. However, what the angel said to Mary was a bit different:

"You are to bear a son, and will name him Jesus, for he will save his people - FROM THEIR SINS".

Yes, from their sins. Not from the Romans, not from the Herods but from their sins.

Today Jesus comes to save us, not from the world and its people but from our sins.

The angel's message was true prophecy, for it was indeed Jesus' mission to save God's people from their sins. It was a huge struggle for Jesus to get the message over and not just be the new Moses, the new Joshua freeing his people from oppression, from tyranny, from exploitation but to free all God's people, from their sins.

Sins, like addictions, are what tyrannise over us. I began to make a list of addictions and then remembered how in a sermon when a brother departed this life listed addictions, he conspicuously omitted the one that he wasn't aware of, his own besetting sin. These are our tyrants, the sinful addictions of which we are not aware. These are the ones that are so destructive and hold the human race back from being the true children of God that He created us to be.


Antony Grant CR