... Ecclesiastes 2:26 ...
Cast your bread upon the waters,
for you will find it after many days.

Advent 3 Year A
Message December 15, 2013

Lessons and Carols

Meditation I The Old Fall

A comical take on Genesis 3:8-19 goes, “God came into the Garden of Eden looking for Adam and discovered he had eaten of the fruit of the tree of which he had forbidden them, and so he said to Adam, “How dare you! Tell me why I shouldn’t punish you?” Adam said, “It wasn’t my fault. I was minding my own business when Eve just handed me some of it and I unknowingly ate – it was her fault.” God turned to eve and asked her why she had done this and why she shouldn’t be punished. Eve in turn stated she had been tricked by the snake. Then god turned to the snake and the snake didn’t have a leg to stand on!

The truth is the Genesis story highlights the egocentric and self-preservation character of humanity, ever willing to shift the blame and to look for ways to safety. Adam first of all refuses blame pointing the finger to Eve and in a back-handed way at God as God was the giver of the woman! The woman also shifts the blame stating she had been tricked. Division curiosity greed guilt, all from the elements of the Fall and the end of innocence, harmony and peace.

The judgement is passed – what Adam and Eve have by free will entered into had cost them the ideal relationship they had previously enjoyed with God and one another. The die has been cast, the scene set and God’s story of reconciliation commences. Human history now becomes a tug-of-war between free will or self-actualization on the one hand and covenantal faith and obedience on the other. The story of Noah and the Flood, the Tower of Babel and even the Patriarchs become examples of the struggle. Such too is the picture of the second reading wherein we read of Abraham’s obedience and faith which offers hope and blessing for his offspring.

The journey home has begun in earnest!

Meditation II A New King!

This past week the world has been mourning and celebrating one of the world’s greatest politicians and leaders: Nelson Mandela. Like a true king of old Mandela brought to South Africa a newness in hope, life, relationships and tranquility. Prior to his release from imprisonment of 27 years South Africa had been a hot spot of racial conflict. Apartheid saw a white minority brutally abusing its power to the detriment of the nation in general and its black people in particular. Everyone knew the society was on the wall – the black majority would rise up against the white rulers and a blood bath of retaliation would ensue. Fortunately it was Nelson Mandela who would seize the reins of power, quell the urge of the people for retribution, proclaim a process of reconciliation and bring South Africa into a democratic and stable nation in which black and white alike could dwell in peace.

As we read these two passages from Isaiah they could well have been oracles or prophecies concerning him. Indeed many scholars state this, that these words of Isaiah were part of a coronation oracle proclaimed at the ascension of each new king of Israel surpassing the hope of the people for a just wise compassionate impartial king who would be able to be God’s voice on earth. Such a king was seen originally in David and Israel’s hopes were to have another in David’s line to accomplish all that he had done and to issue in a comparative prosperity each in their particular time.

The epitome of this new monarchy would be the return to the Garden of Eden state wherein the oldest of enemies – wolf-lamb; leopard –kid; lion-calf would be made friends and a little child (the expected monarch) would lead all into the garden. The Scriptures imply that the child will be from the line of Jesse and David – the “stump” and he would be infused with the Spirit of God to be God’s son. That which starts with generalities of kingship quickly focusses on one specific person in one specific time for one specific task – Divine – human reconciliation.

Meditation III A New Son

He who would fulfill the oracles and prophecies spoken of by Isaiah we come to meet in Luke. Yet the story of the New king and the New Son are not quite what we expect! Yes, we know the story, we know the myths the legends and the controversies. However to the people of the day this would have been beyond belief and beyond acceptance: A virgin with child. No way! Such a concept would have been untenable in those days not to mention the stigma the shame the disgrace to all involved. Mary’s family would have discovered her, Joseph her betrothed would surely have cast the first stone and he would have ended her short life at that point.

But Scripture tells us something differently – Mary willingly accepted the news with total faith and obedience. Unlike Eve whom we met in the first reading, Mary shows no curiosity, no desire to be tricked by any force nor any sign of self-preservation. Open and full of trust, Mary accepts the word of the angel and like Abraham offers all for God’s will.

Whether you accept and believe the doctrine of the Virgin Birth or not really is not part of the story. The story of Mary’s submission obedience and faith is the aim of this vignette and God’s blessing of her is what consequences concern us. Those consequences become the new Son who fulfilled all the dreams hopes and desires mentioned in the prophecies and he became the saviour of a perishing humanity. Jesus filled with the Spirit comes to affect the restoration of a relationship broken by Adam and Eve and for which God alone could orchestrate a process of return.

Meditation IV A New Hope

The nativity story of Jesus’ birth is both whimsical and filled with inaccuracies. The timing of his birth, the angelic appearance and the arrival of the magi all point to a historicity of retrospection. At some point Luke and Matthew, trying to piece together a biography of Jesus, gather various tales and stories to give us a glimpse of Jesus the man and Christ the Messiah. While the stories make for great inspirational faith building, especially in children, the greater story line is God’s presence in the preservation of and protection of Jesus, so that he might grow to fulfill his mission and wrought the reconciliation which was necessary to save humanity from itself.

The deeper insight of who this Jesus was and always will be, will come in our last reading – a reading which parallels in many ways the very beginning of Scripture, “In the beginning” is the Christological understanding of Jesus’ identity and nature. He was present with God from the beginning and was the instrument of creation, direction and salvation and in Him we come to see and know God. It is when we come to fully appreciate what John tells us and we re-read the birth stories from Luke and Matthew to glean a new perspective and indeed a new hope – a hope for peace in a world of turmoil joy in a humanity steeped in sorrow and despair, love in the midst of hatred hanger and fear, and hope in the promises of God expressed in Jesus the Christ child.