First Sunday of Advent

Spoiler alert – if you haven’t seen the last episode of Doctor Who look away now!

In the last episode – the season finale – Clara in her grief goes to extreme lengths to force the Doc-tor to change time and save her boyfriend who has died. She knows his secrets – especially the keys to the TARDIS – and threatens to destroy them unless he helps her. As the scene plays out she does destroy them and is distraught – all hope gone. It is heavy stuff. But it is Doctor Who so there is a twist – the show is about an alien travelling through time and space after all – and in this case, we discover that Clara’s attack on the Doctor back-fired and he made her dream what happened (to see how far she would go). Nevertheless he helps her ‘we’re going to go to hell or wherever it is people go when they die’ and she can’t understand why he’s helping her. ‘Why? Do you think that I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?’

It is TV; it is fantasy; I’m not sure how much we should be found guilty for our dreams; but there is something about relationships – whether fictional or real life – which touches us – gets to us – when we get a glimmer of grace – mercy – it is sadly so often unexpected.

Especially when it comes to betrayal. Betrayal hurts! However it comes, it cuts; maybe even in two. It can destroy. All of a sudden someone finds out that his or her world is not what he or she thought it was. The Greek word has the idea of ‘handing over’ – it can be literal – in terms of Judas and Je-sus and the soldiers. When friendships or marriages are betrayed, it is the relationship that is ‘handed over’ (together with the person) because the betrayer has ‘taken hold’ of something else (eg. another relationship).

We begin a new church year. Everyone hopes for good things at the beginning of something. The problem is that we simply don’t have any sort of track record of knowing what is good for us. We have a history from the garden onwards of grabbing at things we think are good for us. We get it wrong so often when we forsake words for sight. We want to rely on our deeds and on the opportu-nities we see rather than on others and the promises we have made. We often sacrifice for the fu-ture for what we think is a better now. ‘Seize the day’ can be very selfish indeed. And in this desire to make our lives and our world in our image, we ignore the one who has made us. Humanity has betrayed God and grabbed hold of all sorts of things as our makeshift deity. We are delusional.

And what does God to with such betrayal? He is faithful to himself and reveals himself most clearly as merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness and in the person of Jesus, the Word made flesh. Our lives continue to have struggles and pain – we sin and are sinned against – we know how we feel and want to act when wronged and betrayed – so we still find it hard to believe that anyone else wouldn’t act as we would. But then there is Jesus. Manger. Cross. Empty tomb. Church. Font. Altar. Water and bread and wine. And words – lots of words – we describe them as Law and Gospel depending how we hear them – and through it all God reveals himself as our Saviour, our Rescuer who doesn’t treat us as we deserve but has the audacity to love the ungodly. This God is actually good to us. Living this year – each year – actually each day – is really all about trusting him (God’s Word). Doctor Who is fantasy; Jesus isn’t.  — GS