Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!


Advent Sunday
December 2, 2010, 9:46 am
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A sermon preached at All Hallows, Easton, November 28th 2010

“It shall come to pass in the latter days,” or, “In the days to come,” says Isaiah, as he begins his vision of the coming of the Messiah, seven hundred years or so before it took place. St Paul, writing to the Romans, says, “You know the time has come,”  “You know what hour it is.” And our Lord says, You do not know the day.”

This is the essence of Advent: the conviction that something is going to happen, combined with uncertainty about exactly when and how. Yet St Paul says, “You know what hour it is,” namely, time to wake up and get ready!

What Isaiah longed for was a time of peace. Like us, he lived in a time of conflict and war, of insecurity. He knew that political manoeuvrings could not bring it about, let alone military force. Peace was a gift of God, something that human beings only receive when they are open to God. One day- may be only in the latter days, the end of history- swords would be hammered into ploughshares and spears into sickles, and nation would live at peace with nation. But it would be God who would bring this about, when he established his own Kingdom.

In the last book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse or Revelation of St John, the visionary sees the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven. He means that the Ideal Human Community is not something human beings can achieve by their own efforts, it is the gift of God. It is not a matter of having the right laws, or the right institutions, or even the right people in charge. It is a matter of human hearts being open to the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, and allowing oneself to be changed by it, renewed by it.

St Paul puts it like this: you must “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ, taking on his personality, as it were. Seeing the world with his eyes, caring about it as he cares. We should be encouragers, not discouragers; reconcilers and unifiers, not sowers of division; healers, not wounders. If we are to do this, we must really get to know Christ, meditating on his life, speaking to him and listening to him in our prayers.

The tragedy of the modern world (and every age was modern once) is that it does not know Jesus Christ. Whether in the prehistoric days of Noah, or in the days of our Lord’s earthly ministry, or today, people eat, drink, get married, go about their daily business without a thought for God, or a thought for Christ. Perhaps a few times in the year- Christmas, for instance- they think a little. Maybe when someone close to them dies. But it does not last, it doesn’t change their lives.

We are Christians. That means we must think about eternal things, not just now and then, but as the constant background of our lives. We must be awake (as both our Lord and St Paul tell us today), not asleep, as the world is. We must live in such away that people can see the difference: we must be clearly kinder, fairer, more at ease with ourselves than others. You’ve heard the old gibe- “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” The evidence should not be just in our talk, but in our way of life.

Let us pray each day the traditional Advent Collect, which we heard earlier:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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