As the new year of the Church unfolds, we now have entered the Third Sunday in Advent. This third Sunday is Gaudete. The Sunday for joy. It is hard to feel joyful in these times of COVD, but let us try. It is important. A time to count blessings. To be thankful. A time of great expectation as we prepare once again for the Nativity, the birth of a new babe into our midst once again. And soon it will be Christmas Eve.
It's a time of expectation and it is also a time of magic, of nutcrackers and sugar plum fairies, of pirouettes, music of fife and drum, toy-soldiers. A time of the magic of youth. Let us think back to those days. Of peeking out a window while huge snowflakes fall softly in the moonlight of a cold Christmas Eve, looking, waiting … and all the time, they thought you'd fallen off to sleep.
For us, it's some time ago but, at this time of year, when you take some moments to ponder and reflect and to go back, can you recall the magic in the hope and expectation of those days? Of smelling the needles of the Christmas tree, of longing for days to pass soon, of pageants with siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles. Carols and candlelight. Of festive feasts with all the trimmings and the commotion in gathering. And later, sitting on a grandparent's knee.
There was something magical in all that. And maybe of something innocent for which we long once again because as we came to realize a new mother, while giving birth, does not look as serene as the image usually portrayed of Mary on fanciful Christmas cards. On those Christmas cards, you can hardly tell it was in the stall of a barn that it all took place. We encounter the real world: wars, famine, disasters, sickness, losing those we love, death.
Those are the thieves of the magic.
But remember how that magic felt when you were very young, gazing at the Christmas tree, or when you were caught up in the peacefulness of carols and candles in a darkened sanctuary where the glow of light brought warmth, or sitting in complete well-being in the arms a loved one. All was well.
And there was good news in those moments as if a prophecy about our longings.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon you,
because the Lord has anointed you;
he has sent good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour ,
to comfort all who mourn;
3 … to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
The good news is
That the Lord loves justice,
and hates robbery and wrongdoing;
And says: "I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
So, there's the promise, not to be forgotten when the magic feels stolen away. To have and feel that gift can bring back the sense of magic for Christmas as a child but now you know that it's more a holy mystery than it is magic. Mysterium tremendum.
There's more … because the Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
By that he has anointed you and me to be ones to bring this good news. The Lord says that it is we who are called to own the good news by seeing it in our hearts reflected from the feelings of Christmas of long ago. You and I are called to bring that good news to the afflicted and to show it to those whose hearts are broken, to share it with those who feel the pang of loss, to free those imprisoned in need.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
Maybe that's what the magic and mystery of Christmas is all about. The mysterium tremendum, the mighty mystery. Seeing it all through the eyes of a child. Feeling it all through the senses of long ago. And once again becoming as a child. Except this time around it's different. It's different now because now you're not just a child. You're a person to whom is given the power to be one who is not just any child. You have the power to be one who is a child of God.
The Rev'd W Glenn Empey