Posted: December 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

Advent 2 9.12.2018

Malachi 3:1–4 Luke 3:1–6


Last week I tried to argue for advent as a time of waiting for the opportunity of welcoming Jesus into our hearts at Christmas and that this is about abounding in love. I also suggested that this is a metaphor for acknowledging the humanity of Jesus and that in the recognition we encounter the possibility that God is human and that in our living we share in the journey towards true humanness. I also think I was suggesting that in the journey there is a hope that is manifest in the promise of abounding in love. That despite all the struggles of being human and in the face of the evidence of what we as humans get up to there is a hope that defies belief.

Today I want to explore the nature of love as the second Sunday in Advent and here I want to suggest that this love we are Talking about; this love we call God’s love is beyond all the definitions, in fact the definitions in the distinctiveness and in the common thread demand that there is more to the love than we think. But that is the big picture so lets just go back to our texts for today. And let’s start with Malachi.

When we put ourselves in the time of Malachi we note as Theodore Hiebert says that the author of Malachi was “concerned about a lack of devotion and seriousness in Judah’s Temple” (“Malachi: Introduction,” The Access Bible, 1300). Indeed, the author states that “I [God] am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his [sic] temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he [sic] is coming, says the LORD of hosts” (Mal. 3:1). This reading is apropos of the Christmas season for which Christians are pining during the Advent season. Still, the following verse offers us a warning, asking “who can endure the day of [the messenger’s] coming, and who can stand when [the messenger] appears” (3:2), because this messenger will be more than a light but a “refiner” and a “purifier” of those who seek after God (see 3:2, 3). The author, only then, believes that the offering unto God will be pure (3:4).

The message here is that a spiritual harvest may require a refining fire. Get rid of everything inessential. Throw out the clutter in your life. Malachi reminds us that Advent is a time of refining and simplifying. Faithfulness involves focusing on the deeper meaning of Christmas. The invitation is to see that the metaphor of God’s incarnation in our lives and the coming of the Christ is about turning the world of oppressed people upside down. As a side note I am using the words ‘The Christ’ to acknowledge the distorted use of Christ as a surname for Jesus and claim continuity with the Hebrew concept of Messiah which I would argue is much richer than the way we have come to use it,

Advent one was about letting God be human in order to engage in our fullest human way and advent two is about what that means in practice. It is about abounding in love, about transforming and liberating what is best in us and our communities. It involves a new heart and a generous spirit. Here we have the idea of turning around, born again, New Jerusalem and being transformed and loving God as God loves us. All hunting at something beyond, something more.

Christmas at one level is about appropriately choosing to give generously to our friends and family, and at another our generosity must extend beyond ourselves. It is more than about our generosity. The unconditional invites us to see beyond ourselves and our assumptions. The selfless giving is more than our generosity. And to see this with a global perspective the joy of familial relationship unites us with the larger human family and with the evolutionary creation. Christmas is more than about us, more perhaps than just our acknowledging our human response. Here is the advent of love. In traditional terms; by our own spiritual values and practices, we can midwife the birth of The Christ in our families and communities. Not as a supernatural intervention but by abounding in love and transforming and liberating the slave, the culturally bound and the ideologically trapped.

Another aspect of the anatomy of love is the challenge that lies in the understanding that love changes everything. We see this is the traditional engagement in the Christmas Myth. John the Baptist’s message challenges us to turn around – to forsake the ways of death – so that we might be prepared for The Christ’s coming. When we think about death we acknowledge that we have experienced too much death in recent times. Religious extremists wreak havoc around the world and try to create a theocratic state in the Middle East. In some countries, youth fear the law enforcement intended to protect and serve. Addiction is epidemic in many places and in some we are ambivalent or fearful about welcoming refugees, and in some threats to deport people despite their strong work ethic abound. We debate our own addiction to non-renewable resources despite the knowledge that we put the Earth in jeopardy. John’s message then and now, as Mary’s works in Luke 1:68-79 assert, is to bring light to darkness and help the lost find their way. To help people to realize that their destiny is to become love in human form. To be in the image of God that is love.

Brian Swimme, in his book ‘The Universe Is A Green Dragon’ suggests that in order to approach love we must start with our common context, the emerging universe in which we find ourselves. He claims that love begins as allurement, as attraction. I thought about the current theory around human development, that of attachment theory and how this is so important for new born children who are emerging from the womb into a world of light and language and the human journey of physical and mental evolution. Rooted in this attachment seems to be this attraction, child to mother, child to others, child to family and so on. In this way we can call it love that gives life, love that enhances life, love that endures life, and love that is always present, always intimate and always evolving as we become more fully human. Swimme also challenges us when he suggests that over the last few century’s we have trapped love in anthropomorphic boundaries. We have crippled many of our concepts as limited by human love whereas we should start with love as the attraction we find in the cosmic dimension, the attraction that permeates the entire macrostructure, or the basic binding energy found everywhere in reality

Bringing this down to our present. We are to ordain and induct two people into Eldership within our midst. And I want to suggest that love begins here today because love begins wherever we discover interest. To be interested in Eldership is to the fall in love. To become fascinated about the role of eldership in all its responsibilities and it’s personal challenge and satisfactions is to step into a wild and unknown yet attracting level of life.

Today we are to ordain and induct two of our number to the role of eldership. They have been chosen as special people in our community not just because we like them a lot but also because they have thought hard and long about the role as elder in the light of the challenge John the Baptist brings. The task of liberation is not one to be taken lightly because it is not only about one’s own contribution. The task of transformation is a relational task, it is about making connections with people, about transforming with them their own lives. This is never an easy task and these two people in their living have lived out the abundant love, trusted in the unconditional challenge of loving another. They are worthy people and our celebration of that is to invite them to take the role of a wise one within our community, to take the risk and put love into action. And this is a lifechanging and far from simple task because it is about loving abundantly within God who is love.

John the Baptist’s message, as recorded in Luke’s Gospel, is harsh, but it is ultimately liberating. Despite our participation in the ways of death, we can turn around. Love changes everything, We, can use the freedom we have to change our ways, to transform our value systems, and create new structures of life. The author of Malachi recognizes such transformation may be painful, not unlike a refiner’s fire. The military and political forces of evil must be neutralized and transformed and this will require sacrifice. Cultural values need to change and “downward mobility” may, at first, be painful. Spiritual surgery is always painful but the new creation that emerges brings wholeness and joy, and the promise of a harvest of righteousness. This is the message of Advent: prepare for the coming of The Christ by changing your life and giving birth to Christ within and among us. Amen.

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