• The Rector

Sermon for the Second Sunday in Advent

December 5th, 2021

[n.b. the readings during Advent are those found in the Book of Common Prayer, with the addition of an Old Testament Reading & Psalm]

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

You’ll remember that last week, the first Sunday of the new Christian year, was a call to take inventory of ourselves, to be – in the words of someone at Bible Study this week – our own Auditor-General, thinking about what aspects of ourselves need to be reformed or put to the curb so that we can make room to be filled with Christ. The image given was that of Jesus entering the temple in Jerusalem and driving out all those who sold and traded, the temple being not only the physical temple, but the temple of our souls. What is it, we asked, in our selves that needs to be driven out?

Advent begins with this message of cleaning and clearing out, not living in the darkness, as St. Paul said, but in the clear light of day, shuffling off the darkness and clothing ourselves in light.

And all this in preparation, of course, not just for Christ’s coming at Christmas, and not just for His coming on the day of Judgement, but for the ways he will come to us, even this morning, “It is now the moment for you to awake from sleep,” St. Paul told us.

We are not waiting for something unexpected – Christ’s birth is not a surprise to us and neither is his promised return, of which he spoke many times in Scripture. But rather, we are preparing our hearts for the re-birth of Christ in our hearts each and every day. That we may be renewed, born again by his presence in us, and made ever more like him.

And the source of our hope, the record of these promises, the story of God’s work to bring us all to redemption through his son, the incarnate Word, is recorded and given to us in Holy Scripture, what is the centre of our attention today.

The first Sunday in Advent we have been called to cleanse and to empty out, and now the call on this second Sunday is to rest our hope in the word – not just the word of scripture, but in the Word made flesh, Jesus.

Our first reading today is drawn from the 2nd book of the Kings, we sadly don’t hear all of the chapter but only a piece, but in it we hear a portion of the story of the reign of Josiah, King of the Kingdom of Judah.

Josiah ascends the throne at only the age of 8, and in the 18th year of his reign he dedicates money towards the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem. The dilapidated state of the temple, much in need of repair and attention was not just a reminder of how Judah had been ransacked by her enemies, but it was a symbol of spiritual state of the people.

The temple, as with the temple in our Gospel reading last week, is an image or symbol of the people’s relationship with God at the time – crumbling, and in need of repair.

In the midst of the work a book of scripture, of the Laws which the Jews were commanded to follow, was found and brought to Josiah who read it and immediately tore his clothes. In it and through it he saw and understood how unfaithful the people had been, how far they had strayed from the laws, and that their struggles were a judgement against them.

And so he called the people together, the elders of Judah and Jerusalem, and all the people to make a covenant with God to follow the statutes and ordinances.

The hearing of the Word brought about in Josiah repentance, a real desire to live by the law and to walk after God, he and all his people. It’s a beautiful story of inspiration, renewal, and of what God wants to do with us and our hearts.

We pray in our collect today that a similar thing may happen for us – that we may read the scriptures and inwardly digest them that we may ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.

Advent is the season of hope, the hope of salvation, the hope of deliverance from all of the chains which bind us, the hope of a coming kingdom of justice, righteousness, and peace, a brighter dawn and life for all humanity.

But the Gospel again, as it has been lately, warns us against where we place our hope. The world, Jesus says, will pass away, and all things in it, “on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.”

It is not that we cannot or should not hope and work towards a better tomorrow for people on earth, but if that’s all we hope for, if our hope never rises to the level of other-worldly, never looking beyond this world which is passing away before us even now, then we have missed the point.

Paul tells the Romans in the Epistle today that the scriptures were written for our learning, that we, through the comfort of the Word may have hope.

Which is to say that it is not in the passable things of this world that we will find what it is that God wishes to offer us, and neither is it through anything in this world – either our own will and determination, our jobs, our identities - that we will become the people that we are truly called to be. The world will always disappoint us.

But the Word will never leave us or disappoint, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

The word, both in the writ of Scripture and in the person of Jesus, is the very ground of our hope and it is for receiving them that we strive in Advent to make our hearts an open, ready, and welcoming home.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

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