Sunday, 24 December 2017

Can't make it to church - Sunday 24th December 2017

Today, being the last Sunday in Advent is a day when we reflect on the Virgin Mary. A bit later on it becomes Christmas Eve as well (something that confuses some people!) and ‘Yes’ you are expected to go to church tomorrow (or for the midnight service) as well!

Today’s readings start, not with Mary (as one might think) but with David wanting to build a house for God and instead, using what sounds like a Tony Blair soundbite, ends up with God speaking of how He’s going to build a house for David.

Now there’s some interesting links we can follow as of course David’s based in Jerusalem (a place favoured by Donald Trump!) and what with Jesus being ‘the Son of David, there's loads of links we can create (whether they fit or not).

David wants to build a physical house – God wants to build a spiritual house - there's also something political on offer here in terms of creating a dynasty too! There’s good news and bad too, but we miss out the talk of punishing David for his naughtiness as it seems we only want nice stuff as it’s Christmas!

People talk about a number of reasons for God not wanting a home – my take on it is that just as making Saul king was a rejection of God (who’d been doing that role pretty well ‘thank you’) so too does fixing God into a brick box constricts and restricts Him and gave David some sort of ownership of God, for He was in Jerusalem and so that was the only place to come if you wanted to worship Him!

We do that today, don’t we? We make our piddling buildings - no matter how old, ornate, ugly or whatever -  THE’ place people have to come to find God and in doing so miss the fact that God operates almost everywhere except in our churches some time.

“We are THE church in this place . . we are THE parish . . .  THE historic church!”

This is what we find ourselves saying far too often (and 'too often' in my book equals once). This is a thought that puts David's offer in a place where it has to be rejected!

But (ignoring the murderer bit) David is a generally good guy and there are real reasons for God to establish and support his reign and to enable him to live with stability and power as he leads the people to follow their God.

So what does Paul bring to the party with his passage?

Well the word ‘establish’ springs to mind. God establishes David and He establishes us, this means sets up and supports, through the power of the Gospel of Jesus, the Christ, to live for the glory of God. Our sins, like David’s, has been set aside and we are freed to worship Him and lead others into His presence (just like David). Praising and engaging with God is, after all, what we were made to be and do, and is what (thanks to the offering of Himself for us on the cross) we are now able to be and do.

And the Christmas message makes us not only partakers of the grace of God made flesh, but purveyors of this great news - we just don’t a place in Jerusalem of a political dynasty to do it with – we do it as one people united and called Church!

So, here we are – the day we think about Mary and she hasn’t had a look in yet. Perhaps the Gospel will change that (it has to or else we won’t be lighting the candle at the service ).

Yippee! It does. Gabriel pops up and tells her that God has a plan and she has a part in it – and she says ‘Yes’! Hallelujah for that (or else we’d be talking about the virgin Betty instead!).

Now the Blesséd Virgin Mary (BVM) is a real hero of the faith, the problem is that some people assume that she’s the pinup girl of the RC church who pray to her and talk tosh about her being immaculately conceived (which makes her role a con because unless she’s a real, sin-conceived, human then she’s someone merely playing a part) and seem to imply some sort of ownership.

The talk that she is ‘co-redemptorix’ (without her there would have been no redemption) is just a little appalling in the way that some say and believe that statement to be.

Mary is a Christian hero for ALL believers because she was obedient and submissive and agreed to play her part in the coming of Jesus – fully God and fully man – to this world.

She is a hero because she not only did the job but after His death was a key figure in the Church in Jerusalem (aha – another link with the OT readings). She did the stuff and kept the spirit of her promise to be God's woman.

She is a hero and if we, Christian believers, emulated her in the way she served and worked for the eternal kingdom heralded in through the incarnacy (that’s God becoming man) and beyond, then Church would be a different place today.

Perhaps today we might stop and think and then, knowing the challenges and the cost, also tell God that we are willing to play our part in the mission of Jesus in this world of ours; perhaps using the words:
“I am the Lord’s servant, may His word (and call) for me be fulfilled.”

The Collect 
Almighty God, as we prepare with joy to celebrate the gift of the Christ-child, embrace the earth with your glory and be for us a living hope in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

2 Samuel 7:1-16
After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”  But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:
“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders[a] over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”

Romans 16:25-27
Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Post Communion Prayer
Eternal God, for whom we wait, you have fed us with the bread of eternal life: keep us ever watchful, that we may be ready to stand before the Son of man, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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