The First Sunday of Advent

I remember when blogs were starting on the internet. Back in the 1990s the Lutheran Church of Australia had one going for pastors. I dutifully signed up and joined in but after a short while I left the group. Maybe it was me and I just didn’t know how to ‘drive’ the technology but the emotional truth for me was that I felt I was drowning. You came to know what this person would say or which group would support that position and yes, there were things one could learn but over-all it was too time consuming and too repetitious for me. I remember thinking that time is pre-cious and being with people in the same space was more important to me.

These days I use email to communicate. I don’t use Facebook personally. I look at tweets occasionally and tweet less occasionally. My support of Lutheran Radio UK has been as time allows. Our family around the world share a WhatsApp group. Yes, I have wondered whether Ascension and / or I should be more active in cyberspace. And I have noted that people these days do share many personal things electronically and while there are trolls and nasty comments around, I’ve also read many affirming and supportive messages. Yet in our increasingly interconnected world it seems that loneliness abounds. It’s a paradox.

Yet people want to connect personally – be listened to – be accepted as they are. I think people very much hunger for grace.

Advent is about God coming to us. To do what? Does he carry a big stick? Does he carry bags of gummie bears and just hand out sweets? Is he there to just carry our bags so to speak at our command? Does he challenge us, lecture us, scold us? Does he speak at all? Advent reminds us that God is here to help us – creation to Christmas to Easter to his visible return – but with the help we need (not the help we want). So it is also true that Jesus can very much frustrate us because he doesn’t do as we wish all the time but his disciples still return to the truth that Jesus is trustworthy. It is we and others around us and life itself that actually frustrates, perplexes, stumps, hurts, angers, even kills us. Why does our world – life – have to be like this?

People can shape Jesus as they wish but God’s Word presents Jesus as he is –and there’s a mystery here – the mystery of the work of the Holy Spirit – that God’s Word will speak to us two consistent messages – about sin and grace –that’s our sin and God’s grace and this message comes into focus with Jesus. Jesus knows us as we are and loves us yet Jesus refuses to be a product of our imagination or even faith. Instead the Bible keeps sending us to his cross – to his life and love – and also to picking up our own cross and following him! But it can be a lonely walk.

One of the signs of Christians following Jesus is that they listen to those around them. I know there’s a big tradition of Christians speaking and evangelising and so on but one-on-one caring by listening –genuinely listening – often in the same room listening – eyeball-to-eyeball or shoulder-to-shoulder listening – is one of the most gracious things that can be done in this world. It takes time. It takes presence. And, I think, everyone craves such care. Knowing Jesus is always listening to us can help his followers listen to and care for those around us. GS