The Second Sunday of Advent - Reflection

'the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken’.  Isaiah 40:5

Brothers and sisters, Films these days are full of promises that seem a bit peaky. Whether it’s the promise to stop a bomb as the counter ticks close to zero, or it’s the promise to catch the bad guy, lots of films focus on the idea of trusting in an impossible promise that someone else makes. One of the most obvious examples of this is in the Pixar film ‘Finding Nemo’. In this film about fish there’s a character called Dory who has the memory of, well, a fish. She can only remember things for a few seconds except for one or two details that they need to remember to get to rescuing the titular Nemo. But at one point in the film, the forgetful Dory asks the protagonist to trust her and to fall into the stomach of a whale who will help get them to where they need to go, to find Nemo. The protagonist really isn’t sure whether or not to listen to Dory’s promise but he remembers all of the times in the past when she’s got things right, even though she’s forgetful. He trusts in her. Generally in the film, Dory brings hope, even when they don’t know which way to go, she gives the cheerful reminder to the protagonist that he just needs to keep on swimming. He just needs to keep on going. In many ways, in the film finding Nemo, Dory fulfils the role of prophet. She calls people back to the way forward, she asks people to trust in the way and she brings hope, just keep swimming, just keep going a little while longer.

Well, today we remember the prophets as we navigate our way through advent. It’d be easy to forget, like Dory, that advent is not just about looking forward to Christmas, it’s about remembering God’s promise of a new heaven and a new earth. In fact, people often forget that advent isn’t just the first part of Christmas. Advent isn’t just an excuse to eat chocolate or the time to dust off the Christmas carols, advent is a time of looking forward. A bit like Lent is to Easter, during Advent, we should look forward, towards what is to come, towards God coming to earth, both in the form of the baby Jesus at Christmas, but also when he’ll come back one day in the future. We look forward and we prepare ourselves, which is why on the second week of advent, we remember the prophets, those who helped others look forward and prepare for God’s promise being fulfilled. And that is what today’s bible readings were about, looking forward to the promise that God will fix things. The word ‘promise’ means a lot less than it once did. People throw promises around all the time these days, people “promise” that they’ll never speed again, or that they’ll definitely remember their anniversary next time. I’ve definitely been guilty of making a promise or two that I’ve failed to keep in the past, in fact there may have even been one occasion on which Fr Jordan may have promised to pick Becky up from a pizza hut in Doncaster, after which he may have forgotten his promise and left poor Becky stood outside in the rain. I know it may be hard to imagine Father Jordan forgetting something like that and turning up an hour late with a big grin on his face, but what may be a bit easier to imagine is Becky warning that if it happened again, she may forget to invite me on holiday the next year. We’ve all probably fallen victim once or twice to some more serious broken promises. Whether it’s a dodgy car dealer who’s left us penniless or a parent who didn’t show up when they said they would. And we all know what it’s like to break our own promises, with new year’s resolutions that aren’t that resolute, and hobbies left by the wayside, it’s no wonder that we treat promises as though they’re trivial these days. It’s not normal these days to be able to trust that a promise was as good as a yes, and yet… when God makes a promise, he keeps it. When God makes a promise, he keeps it. Over summer we heard God’s promise to take his people out of slavery in Egypt. Even though the world super-power of the day stood against them, God kept his promise. He delivered them. God kept his promise to Abraham by bringing the people into the promised land. God keeps his promises. It was God who promised over and over again throughout the Old Testament, that a saviour would be born and as we know, in a couple of weeks we’ll be remembering the fulfilment of that promise, made through the prophets, who looked forward to Jesus hundreds of years before he was born. He made promises to Noah, to Jacob, to Joseph, to Jonah and Joshua. Time and time again, in the Bible God shows us that when God makes a promise he keeps it. God’s promises aren’t the wishy washy diet-for-a-week promises that we make and that we know, God’s promises are as enduring as the laws of nature. When he promises, he keeps it.

In our reading in 2 Peter today, a huge promise is made for us. We are promised that Jesus will come back and that we’ll get a new heaven and earth. We’re given a glimpse of what this will mean and who it’ll be for but mostly, we’re told of the promise that some day, He will return and he will make all things new. So we’re told, to be ready for this, we need to act like we knew for a fact that this very night, someone was going to sneak into our house and steal our most prized possessions. Imagine you had a really polite burglar who rang in advance, you’d get it all sorted and you’d get yourself ready for them, you’d keep watch. Well we need to be just as ready for Jesus coming back, by following his commands and keep on swimming in the way he taught us. Now, admittedly, it has taken rather a while, if I have to wait five minutes for a MacDonalds these days I get impatient, and it can’t be ignored that Our Lord has taken about two thousand years to come back.  But God doesn’t work on our time schedule, he works on his schedule, and it’s one of our jobs as Christians to be like the prophets, to remind people of God’s promises, as they regularly did. A bit like those characters from finding Nemo, we don’t get to know the full story, but we are reminded time and time again, just keep swimming, just keep going a little longer. Keep going just a bit further because God has promised and God will keep his promises. Just keep watch, he’s coming back. The prophets remind us that and it’s our job to remind others too, to just keep going and to remember that Christ will come again. We are to be the voice of one calling in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord. To live good and holy lives that usher in the new heaven and earth. We’ll hear more about that next week, I’m sure, but this week we should recall that we are to prepare people, to remind them of God’s promise, just like the prophets, God’s truth-speakers, did. And the prophets did this for two reasons, not to scare people with visions of the end time, but to first, call out injustices and make earth more like the heavenly promise, and second, to bring hope. So if you’re worried about the second coming for which we keep watch, you who are weary… you who are troubled by awful relationships, you who are abused, you who are poor or sick, God has promised. So God will make a new heaven and earth for you. Just keep watch. Just keep going on the way. Trust the prophets and follow Christ, because he’s coming back.  

This week, why don’t we recommit ourselves to, like God, making our yes be yes and our no be no, to keeping our promises. Why don’t we recommit ourselves to being promise keepers just like God. And why don’t we prepare our hearts by reminding ourselves of the hope that we can have in God’s promises. Can I encourage you to spend some time this week trying to imagine the unimaginable, perhaps just ten minutes tonight, trying to imagine what that new heaven and new earth may look like, not because we can truly grasp the beauty that is to come, but instead to remind us of the hope we have. But in all that we do, let us remember to just keep swimming, to keep the faith with hope in our hearts, as we journey towards Christmas. Amen. (from Fr Jordan).