The Fourth Sunday of Advent

It happened again recently. I hadn’t experienced it for quite a while. (I don’t get out much per-
haps! 😉 ) It was a pleasant conversation with people I knew a little and who knew me less.

General conversation about all sorts of things and curiosity about ‘my world’ and God and
religion. No agendas as such. They weren’t religious. (I don’t know what that actually means
anymore.) I am obviously religious (whatever that means). And when the conversation came
around to families and there was a surface level sharing – just little things – I was asked

about my family and I mentioned that I had five chil-
dren around the world – and there it was – that mo-
mentary quick surprise before polite composure re-
turns. When people find out my occupation then the

number of children I have does seem to generate a
surprise. (A long time ago I was once asked, “Is that
allowed?!”.) Maybe it is that God, religion, and just
being ordinary just don’t seem to go together? Do

people think you’ve got to be one or the other – reli-
gious (and somehow different) – or ordinary (and just

like other people they know)?
‘Yes … and no.’ Christians are the same and also
different to everyone else. Hopes, dreams, joys, sorrows, good moments, tragic times, good
health, chronic disability, meaning and purpose, humility, pride, and so much more are part of
all of us. And yet there is a difference – every religion or philosophy claims a difference – so
that’s not so much the issue – but perhaps over time as Christians are observed and lived
with, it can seem to the world that they are different – not perfect – definitely (hopefully!) not
holier-than-thou – but somehow having a peace about life, not fatalistic about suffering, and
having a confidence and security that comes from being loved. The Christians themselves
won’t see it! They’re conscious of their sins and failings and could-always-do-better and help
me, Lord. One might say that Christians are religious and are ordinary. It’s relational they say
– not rule based or a code but our religion is essentially a relationship with Jesus.
That shouldn’t be surprising considering Advent and Christmas. The story of a controversial

pregnancy and a birth in poverty is said to be about the glory of God. Jesus – laid in a man-
ger, refugee, carpenter, itinerant preacher, who kept pointing to God and if you had eyes and

ears to see and hear you kept focusing on Jesus – is religious and ordinary! But it gets worse

– not better – when he is declared a criminal and is crucified. Religions claim gods are spe-
cial while Christianity proclaims Jesus is Immanuel (God with us) – ordinary, mortal – be-
cause God regards humanity as special (made in his image) and loved. So loved that God

acted to rescue us through Jesus in his birth, life, death, and resurrection. And that empty
tomb makes us to a double-take. What?! Everything ordinary Jesus said and did was real and
true – Jesus is one of us – a human being – and also God among us?? Among us?! Now?!
Yes! Jesus is with his people in their lives – their real life – the one we actually live – the often
ordinary one. Jesus is present to help us live well each day in our real – actual – life. Maybe
that’s why Irenaeus (2nd Century) once said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive”.