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Sunday 21st January 2018 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Third Sunday of Epiphany
Celebrant and Preacher: Rev'd Nathanial

Sunday 28th January 2018 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany
Celebrant: Rev'd Nathanial
Preacher: Jack Noonan

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11th December 2016 – Third Sunday of Advent – Rev’d Nathanial Nathanial

Sermon (Click Link to Listen)

Bible Readings: Isaiah 35. 1-10; James 5. 7-10; Matthew 11. 2-11

A few days back, I received a message on Advent which I would like to share with you all,

If there is no Advent, then Christmas is not adequately experienced.

If you do not experience the message of Advent and therefore, do not look for Jesus to come, then do not be surprised that Christmas seems to slip by without leaving a mark on your soul.

Today, we observe the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Joy Sunday or Gaudete Sunday derived from Latin word ‘Gaudete’ which means ‘Rejoice’. It fills us with a sense that the time is getting short and soon our joy will be complete as we will celebrate our Savior’s birth. Advent is the season of waiting and effortfully preparing ourselves for the coming of God’s ‘Promised Son’. This is the time we re-read the promises of God from the Old Testament for example Deut 18:15-22 which talks about God raising up “a prophet after Moses

When Jesus came on the Earth, the people of God had already been waiting for a long time for the leader who would usher in a new era of liberation and prosperity for Israel. In their search of the scriptures for help in identifying the prophet to come, Palestinian Jews settled on the miracle catalogues and rhythmic lists of signs mentioned throughout the prophetic and poetic writings. Such catalogues drew from a familiar set of healing and restoration miracles that would both reveal and validate the ‘Prophet after Moses’.

Prophet Isaiah lays forth such “listings or catalogue” in chapter 35, which has been read before us this morning. There are dozens of catalogues in the Old Testament. The prophets of old were used to having encounter with God in a variety of ways including visions in the night, voice from the sky, burning bushes etc. The underlying mode of communication in most of these encounters was ‘presentational’ for the people. Though the specific content could be just about anything, but they had one theme in common, i.e. God’s reign will someday be made known to all people in an unmistakable way. The task of the prophets was often the task of describing to the people what would it be like when the ‘Messiah’ comes. How would they know if the Messiah has come? The prophet would say, “Look around! When the Messiah comes near it will be like this…

So that the people do not get confused upon Messiah’s coming. Another such catalogue, we find in Isaiah 40:3….A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God… Now, the voice refereed to here, is the voice of John the Baptist who was born a few months before Jesus, to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. In the Gospel Reading from Matthew 11 we heard that Jesus refers to John the Baptist as ‘More than a Prophet’.. and, like it was depicted last Sunday by the children of our church, we know that he was the greatest road worker whom God sent right before Jesus to prepare the way.

The same person who was sent to prepare way for Jesus’ coming, possibly felt gloomy upon being imprisoned by King Herod. I have never been in prison as a prisoner, but, as a Pastor, I have visited prisoners. Behind the locked gates, prisoners experience a form of darkness, as their vision is limited to the size of their cell. Despite his isolation, John managed to communicate with Jesus. Many people, even today, are imprisoned or are behind bars in different ways. Their vision is limited and they do not communicate with Jesus which profoundly effects. Whether Christ comes and makes a home in their hearts this Advent. A big reason why so many question where God and Jesus are in their lives is because their minds are narrowed in the gloom, their faith has not been formed, they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus and, as a result, they cannot see God at work in the everyday dimensions of their lives.

The New Testament reading, taken from James 5:7-10, tells us to wait patiently for God’s kingdom/ Christ’s second coming. Many a times it is difficult to wait patiently isn’t but like John who was in the prison at that time if we make efforts to communicate with the author and finisher of our faith, He will certainly comfort or strengthen us by His Love and make our joy complete. In Matthew 11:4-5; Jesus told John’s disciples to share His works which they hear and see, with John, in order to give him assurance and comfort. Jesus validates himself from the catalogue given in Isaiah 35 by mentioning the works He did and was doing in the lives of blind, lame, lepers, deaf, dead and the poor; He mentioned, ‘The Joy of the Redeemed’.

And right there, when our Messiah is with us, we find our joy too. We look around at our lives, and the lives of the ones we love, and we say, “Yes, its God’s doing. We may not say that, I was blind, or lame, or downtrodden. But we say God healed me, lifted me up, touched my life and gave me joy.” God has come near, and extraordinary things have happened in our lives. And for that, we praise God.

But, can we pause for a minute? Some people come to celebrate “Rejoice Sunday” with less enthusiasm or less rejoicing than expected. They feel depressed deep down in their hearts, face struggle to meet or celebrate with their families or there are some who remember sad things or bad things that happened around Christmas.

Many of us, many a times, find that our joy is not absolute around this time of the year. But, WHY? because, we have our own ‘customized catalogue’ for the season. In the last parish where I served as a priest, on the day following Christmas, we used to have celebration in an orphanage, somehow related to our parish and last year’s theme was ‘Jesus is the reason of the season’, something we hear quite often but I don’t know how seriously we all take it. Carols, decorations, cakes, shopping, everything is in our catalogue, which I agree, are good (They are in my catalogue too!). But as a true Christian what all things can I add to my catalogue? He is not going to be born again as a baby anymore so speculate if we are waiting earnestly for the second coming of Jesus? Can I be a blessing to someone this season? Christmas is a season to share and show our love towards others as God has shown His love by sending His only son.

Advent calls us to make room for Jesus in our hearts. It calls us to make it possible for Him to come to smooth out some of the rough places. There is a wonderful Hymn,

Thou Didst Leave Thy throne, which captures this Advent Hope:

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee.

Advent teaches us to live with patient expectation yet be effortful as we wait. God begins with a tiny Child, born in humble surroundings, and then God works slowly, surely. Our task is to be watchful, to not lose hope, to see what God is doing in our lives and around us and at the same time it is our duty to share the true message of this season and our abundant joy of Lord’s birth with others. The joy of Christmas isn’t just that he came, but that he is coming again to finish what he started.