Monday, November 29, 2010

Coming Home for Christmas

Isa 2:2 In days to come the mountain where the Temple stands will be the highest one of all, towering above all the hills. Many nations will come streaming to it…..
They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again.

Christmas is the time when people make an effort “to go home for Christmas.” Some fly across the county, others gather together as a family, and some gather at the telephone – or skype! So my task is to ask “Have you have sorted out the family gathering?”
In the Old Testament we have advice about the family gathering from one of the wise men of faith:
Isaiah lived 2700 years ago: which was 700 years before Jesus. He lived at a time when Assyria was expanding her political influence. And so the people of Judah and Israel felt very unsafe, because this foreign power was flexing its economic and military muscles on their border. Isaiah offers this advice: stop worrying about the future and instead: “Come Home”

Isaian says three things:

1. See that God’s mountain is the largest one of all.Isa 2:2 In days to come the mountain where the Temple stands will be the highest one of all, towering above all the hills
This is not a geography lesson, but is rather a lesson in imagination.
No matter how big the mountains that frighten you, open your eyes and discover that God’s mountain is bigger!
This is not saying that you must ignore the things that make you afraid: it is inviting you to see that God is bigger.
There is a famous quote from Frederick Langbridge "Two men look out through the same bars; one sees the mud and the other one the stars."
This is a choice – either we can look for the mud, or we can look up and see God’s mountain. Going home for Christmas gives us a choice: we can choose to see the mud. Or we can choose to see God.

2. Many nations will come
Isa 2:3 Many nations will come streaming to it,and their people will say, "Let us go up the hill of the LORD
This was tough for the people of Isaiah’s time to hear: because they were resisting the “many nations.” They wanted nothing to do with them because they were afraid of them. In fact they wanted to keep them out:
Isaiah says – “No. Let them in.”
The more people who come, the more chance they have of hearing the Good News of our faith…."Let us go up the hill of the LORD, to the Temple of Israel's God.”

Clearly this speaks to those of us today who follow Jesus. This is an invitation for us to hear the call to welcome people into our faith rather than shutting them out.

3. They will make peace
They will hammer their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nations will never again go to war, never prepare for battle again (also found in Micah 4:3).
This is a famous quote that is often quoted, and is to be found on a plaque outside the United Nations headquarters in New York. I looked it up on Google, and found this quote repeated 40 000 in quotes: and probably 39 000 reasons why we should not take this seriously.
- Some say that “God did not really mean this for the present – it is just an ideal.”
- Others: “This is only for the end of time when Jesus returns to judge the nations”
- Many say that this is a spiritual activity where we stop being at war with God.

And I asked why when we take so many other texts in the Bible at face value - why can’t we take this one literally too?
I had to acknowledge it was because this is really too difficult.
• No one in their right mind expects the nations to make peace with each other.
In fact throughout the recent Recession – the one industry guaranteed to make a profit are weapons of war.
Even the prophet Joel found it hard to believe (Joel 3:10 )
• No one even tries to make peace as individuals. Because it is just too hard.

But this is unavoidably here: and is repeated in Micah 4:3.
This is the dream – not sometime in the future – but for this Christmas! How do we know this?
Because these are the words of the angels when Jesus was born.
Luk 2:13 Suddenly a great army of heaven's angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God:"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!"
Luke tells us that when the angels had finished singing to the shepherd : what did they do? They went home!
Picture this: they lived in the village of Bethelhem – but spent time in the fields looking after their sheep. The angels said: make peace, and they said: “let us go to Bethlehem.” This is the stuff of Christmas – that we make peace…. And where does peace begin – at home!

So the invitation for today:
Begin to prepare for Christmas.
And begin your preparation by making peace.

This is the point that you stop me and say: That’s all very well: but how do I do it? I am angry / I am upset / I have been hurt :
It is very hard to suddenly be peaceful.
And I agree: I too find it very hard to make peace when I have been hurt.
In my experience I have to follow the example of the shepherds:
When the shepherds wanted to put into practice the words of the angels they went to the crib of Jesus.
I have found that I need to begin at the crib of Jesus:
I need to allow his peace to anoint me, and discover that Jesus is able to calm my heart. The amazing this is that he will even give me enough peace to share this with someone else.

So here is my invitation: this Christmas: prepare to make peace.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Goldwing and Trailer.

Today was the Cape Town Toy Run. Thousands of bikes carrying toys for charity. Here I am looking for my retirement bike: a Honda Goldwing trike (so that I do not fall over in my old age). And trailer attached for the luggage. I better start saving.
Sent via my BlackBerry

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent Sunday

Walter Brueggemann: "Advent is an abrupt disruption in our 'ordinary time'…an utterly new year, new time, new life. Everything begins again… While the world around us wraps up another year hoping for increased consumer spending and waiting for annual reports on profits, the church has already stepped into a new time, to begin a season of hoping and waiting for something of much greater significance than profits or spending: for Advent invites us to awaken from our numbed endurance and our domesticated expectations and consider our life afresh in light of the new gifts that God is about to give."