Advent 2 • 4 Dec 2016

Isaiah 35: 1- 10
James 5:7- 10
Matthew 11:2-11

Rev. Chris Udy

A few weeks ago
our study groups worked through
the Christmas stories
in Matthew and Luke –
and we discovered,
that even though, each year,
we try to make them work together
and make a single story – like a pageant –
the stories in Luke and Matthew
are quite different,
and they don’t really come together
easily and neatly.
Matthew and Luke tell their Christmas stories
for very different reasons.
Matthew looks back
to stories that promised Israel
that someone would come
to lead them to peace and freedom –
the Messiah –
and Matthew told his Jewish readers
that although he didn’t come with
a conquering army,
Jesus was the one they were waiting for.

Luke told his story for different people.
People who no longer lived in Palestine;
people who met with other Christians
in homes and gathering places
in cities like Antioch, and Corinth,
in provinces that had all been conquered by Rome.
And Luke told his mainly Gentile readers
that although Rome was great,
and its Emperor was mighty,
the realm of God was greater,
and Jesus was their Lord – their divine ruler –
not Caesar.

Both Matthew and Luke tell their Christmas story
to help their readers understand
that the way it looks like the world works:
through power plays and violence
and deals and secrets and lies –
isn’t the way to freedom or peace,
and it isn’t the way the way to see
the power that really rules the world.

Emperors and kings and political players
might be able to make life hard
for ordinary people –
they might rule with threats of blood and fury -
but they can’t make life worth living.
They can’t make a safe place
for a baby to be born;
they can’t raise and teach a child
to be the sort of person
who can love, and forgive,
and make a home for children of their own.

The world is made and ordered,
not by weapons and armies,
but by women and men like Mary and Joseph,
who make a safe place for their children
despite the world’s confusion and distress.
The power of God is never expressed
in a military Messiah or an enslaving Emperor –
God’s power comes to life
in relationships of loving, forgiving grace,
and in women and men
who make room in their lives
for others who need to find a safe place
to live and grow and learn
and find their healing and their wisdom.

In our study group we found
that although Luke and Matthew
told their Christmas stories in different ways,
and for different readers,
they were living in the same world,
and it was a world pretty much like ours,
where we can sometimes be afraid
that good and gentle
and beautiful things don’t last
and loving and peaceful people never win.
So Matthew and Luke
wrote their Christmas pageants
to say – don’t give up hope!
The power and truth of God
is alive, and working in the world –
and nearly 2000 years later
we’re still putting pageants on
for the same reason.

So … don’t give up hope!
The power and truth of God
is being born among us,
and whenever we help
to make a home, or a community,
where people find a welcome,
and hospitality, and compassion,
the reign of God is extended.