Saturday, January 22, 2022

Rev Douglas Galbraith’s Reflection for the Third Sunday in Advent – 12th December 2021.

December 12, 2021 by  
Filed under Weekly Reflection

Luke 3:7-18.

In our day we are surrounded by the weird and the wonderful. There are horror films on television, human interest stories in the press, rumours round villages, and conspiracy theories from abroad.

First century Galilee had John the Baptist and they made the most of him. So long in the wilderness that he was clad like the animals, unkempt, inclined to rant at anyone who came within earshot from a mind full of theories and opinions and rages.

Gradually, though, people began not just to talk and joke about him but go out to hear him. The crowds got bigger. Why? It was because he was beginning to focus on one thing that they could understand. They were an occupied people and that always brings a conflict of interests at governing level. But they were a nation of stories and songs and John rang bells for them.

The axe is at the foot of the tree, he thundered. They felt that too. Things were ripe to move on – but how they did not know. People began to identify themselves with his views, even became baptised. Was it to be John that would lead the revolution? No; there is one coming who is mightier than I, he would say. It caused them to wonder and to ask questions. Could you possibly say, sir, how we should organise ourselves, how we should get ready?

His answers chimed in with their experience. If you’ve two shirts, give one to someone who has none. He even addressed particular trades and professions – for example tax collectors: only take from people what is laid down, no tips, no fraud. Or the military: don’t use force to extort, to threaten, to feather your nest; live on your pay. And so on.

Well, quite! Be good in terms of what society requires. But even John knew that this was not the answer in the end. When he said ‘There is one coming who is mightier than I’ he was saying ‘There is another level of existence that lives by a different kind of rule, but I am not able to tell you.’

We now know that this was nothing less than a ‘salvation’ from the imperatives and demands of one’s peers and one’s culture. You can be responsible citizens and good neighbours, but that doesn’t stop the violence or the poverty. We all have our limits within which we feel satisfied that we have done all we can. Jesus’s ‘way’ was not even fully understood in his lifetime: the rule of love, which is not a set of rules but an ever-expanding heart, a love that is possible because of the depth of love Christ showed and which God showed through him.

But John had made a start. ‘With many other exhortations he proclaimed the good news to the people.’

Prayers in Advent

At this time for expectation, O Lord,

refresh the dullness of eyes that have seen it all before,

challenge the minds and memories that filter out

those things we don’t want to know,

reinvigorate the wills that have known too much setback

and avoid the pain of further disappointment.

Instead, bring to ourselves and to our church

the alertness and the wakefulness

that arises from lives which expect that good things will happen,

that value our own gifts and graces and seek to use them well,

lives that are compassionate and mindful of others,

known and unknown, also made in God’s image.

God of eternity,

when the voice of the prophet was silent

and the faith of your people low;

when darkness had obscured light

and indifference displaced zeal;

you saw that the time was right,

and prepared to send your Son.

Set us free from fear and faithlessness

that we may be ready to welcome him who comes as Saviour and Lord.

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