2nd Sunday of Advent 2016

Sermon Title: Advent 2 December 2016,
Date: 4th December 2016
Preacher: The Reverend Jonathan Chambers
Church Date: 2nd Sunday of Advent
Lectionary Reading: Isaiah 11:1-10

All fear will change to comfort. All enemies will be transformed into friends
As we trust in God, we find our peace
In the grace of God, we find our hope.
Let us – with hope – kindle the light of the Lord

How do you feel about Christmas?
How do you feel about getting together with family and friends?
For many it can be quite stressful and often brings to mind hurts from the past.
What does Jesus coming mean?
Is it a merely a religious festival or is it integral to knowing who you are and how you relate
to all the world- including those family members with whom you struggle?
The message of Isaiah’s prophecy is that Everything belongs like it did in the beginning in
the Garden of Eden. When the child could play over the hole of the asp.
Emmanuel “That God is with and in us” becomes real in the story of the birth, life,
teaching and death of Jesus who was raised as the Christ.
So how do we get to know God?
This was the question Carol asked in the Children’s spot a few weeks ago.
Remember she told of Leonard Cohen who when asked if he believed in God?, replied
that he Knew God.
So how do we get to know God, rather than just know about God?
Knowing God comes from knowing ourselves
Not our False selves but our True Selves (as we were when we were born) before our life
circumstances shaped us
We learnt to behave in ways that were acceptable to get the love we needed
For example:
Parents teach their children to be ‘nice’.
Do you recall when aunt Dorothy gave you handkerchiefs or underpants for Christmas
and you were told to say thank you and smile, when in reality you knew that you would
have really appreciated something which was fun, like a game or toy, rather something
useful?
Yet family pressure and culture says we must be nice to Aunt Dorothy (for whatever
reason – it may be she has lots of money which parents might inherit, or your mother is
really terrified of her and fears that if you’re not nice, she will be accused by aunt Dorothy
of not knowing how to bring up children properly – even though she has never had any
children of her own).
The end result is you as the child learns that everybody else’s needs are more important
than theirs. (Aunt Dorothy is to be liked, because she is very lonely or perhaps underneath
because your mother is still seeking her big sister’s approval.)
And if you express your disappointment for getting such a boring present, you will be
‘sent to your room’; physically or emotionally for being rude or ungrateful…  and so you
end up feeling resentful.
But if you show your resentment you get accused of pouting- and that’s not acceptable
either… and so you internalise it.
It’s too hard to live with this conflict and so we rationalise, coming to believe the
acceptable explanation …. that aunt Dorothy is old and set in her ways, she doesn’t
understand the needs of children and so its best to realise she is doing her best, and be
grateful… This is true and the NICE Acceptable explanation, but deep down inside
still resides the hurt – that ‘nobody loves me enough to know what I want and need; which
is appreciation for just for being me and taking the time to think about and search out
what I might really like for a present’.
So I grow up believing that other’s needs are more important than mine and so I’m not
really good enough.
If I behave the way people expect, then I’ll be acceptable.
That then becomes my Persona, my Ego Image which has to be constantly fed
So I spend most of my life being nice – sometimes pathologically.
We live as if we are never going to live up to that image
and so we live with constant guilt about “being not quite good enough”, expecting that
we will be caught out – all the time.
The Good News of the Christmas Story is that
YOU DON’T HAVE TO!!!
God loves you
GOD understands that you wanted a game or a toy
God understands that you wanted understanding and love
God wants you to understand That it wasn’t your fault!!!
You are loved whatever you do and you need to forgive yourself.
You don’t have to be perfect – God doesn’t expect it, even if it felt growing up, that you
had to be.
Getting in touch with and grieving some of those hurts of our childhood is part of the
process of ‘Knowing ourselves’ and understanding why we have turned out the way we
have – why we react sometimes hurtfully to certain people and situations.
When we can look at ourselves with compassion, simply acknowledging what happened
to us and why, then we can let go of the need to live up to, what we think are, everyone’s
expectations of us.
It’s important to view ourselves with compassion. I think I’ve said before that my spiritual
director once asked me whether I was as compassionate with myself as I am with
prisoners?
It’s good to sit ourselves down in a chair, walk around ourselves and say “You have got
yourself all upset again, it’s no wonder you felt hurt, but it will be ok. Take some time out –
just on your own and regroup. Give yourself some space. You are okay and you are a
loved child of God. Soothe yourself and give yourself the care that you know you
deserve”.
Thinking this way about ourselves helps us to realise, that that’s how God sees us and
cares for us.
If we can do this for ourselves, then maybe God cares for us at least this much and even
more.
So as Richard Rohr says:
(Once) “you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect, you can
now do it for everybody else too. If you have not forgiven
yourself, I am afraid you will likely pass on your sadness,
absurdity, judgment, and futility to others.”
1
Letting go of our need to be perfect, allows us to be generous with others .
We take on the mind and become part of the love of God.
When this happens all the old enmities of the word start to fall away.
As Isaiah predicts:
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
This is the Advent hope which we look forward to at Christmas
We will be able to live in peace with the family member with whom we struggle, not
because we are “trying to be nice”, but, because we are at peace within ourselves.
We can look at them with compassion, as we look at ourselves.
Human and fallible, each with our own stories of hurt and rejection.
We see each other as God sees us.
Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215), wrote: “Yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so
that you might learn from a man how to become a god. 2
As people who know our godliness we become part of God’s plan to bring all things
together. Part of those, who are bringing “God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven“.
I’d like to finish with a poem by the Rev’d David Connolly who was at one time my spiritual
director.
From his Christmas card this year:
Sun of God
No need to search the skies.
The light is here,
down here –
everywhere
Shimmering
in people
whose lives
banish
rejection,
bitterness,
indifference,
fear.
They beam light
to reach
the shadow places
in us
and our poor world.
Light from the Light – source
whose birth
we celebrate
They don’t know they do it.
That’s why they shine.3
The Lord be with you.

1 Richard Rohr Daily Mediation 1 December 2016, Centre for Action & Contemplation
2Justin Martyr, “Chapter CXXIV”, Dialogue with Trypho, retrieved 2012-11-06
3The Reverend David J. Connolly Christmas Card December 2016