Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mission Accomplished an Advent reflection on Isaiah 55:8-11

I’m not sure that rain is that welcome at Christmas time. Christmas BBQ meals, with everyone huddling under the eaves of the house and the food being run in and out from the BBQ with the cook standing under an umbrella, water squelching in their jandals.The kids didn’t need the slip and slide in the backyard this year. They just slide down the increasingly muddy back lawn, and you don’t know how you are going to get them cleaned up to come inside later… and you definitely don’t want grandma slipping on that muddy slope as she is hurried in from the car. Then there is that camping trip you’re going on tomorrow, wet road travelling, pitching a tent in the rain, not fun and then digging a trench round it keep it safe and dry… well dry-ish.

Snow… at Christmas? We are more used to sun and sand... I guess it’s what those northern hemisphere dreams are made of. For some of us it’s in our genetic memory or even our childhood memories of distant homelands. We certainly sing about it enough in those carols as we swelter in increased heat and humidity, with the drone of fans as necessary accompaniment.

This year my advent reflection has revolved around rain and snow the images that are used in the passage we had read out from Isaiah 55. A passage which for me captures the wonder and grandeur of the incarnation: that places that child born in a Bethlehem stable into perspective. AS the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return without watering the earth… so it is with my word that goes out of my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purposes for which I sent it.”

The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us as John so succinctly puts it in the prologue to his gospel. No one has seen God but in Jesus we have beheld his mercy and grace. This is the mystery of the incarnation the magic if your will of Christmas, that God would take on human form, become a defenceless baby, born amidst the upheaval and housing crisis conditions caused by the census called by the world super power of the time …Rome. It is beyond us to comprehend God becoming a child and being placed in danger, having to flee as a refugee from the death squads of a paranoid dictator, a story which fills out TV screens each night as we see the human tragedy of Syria and Aleppo.  A virgin conceives a child, who is heralded by angels and welcomed by lowly shepherds, this is the wisdom of God so far beyond our own. A child who would grow in to a man and would live and heal and teach of God’s great love, and would die a criminals death on the cross, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians to the world  this is foolishness, but to those of us being saved it is the power of God.

The passage is full of images that point us to Christ; his person, his purpose and mission.

Water. Our kids took the service last week and did a wonderful job… we had mainly music for the pre-schoolers our primary kids with Sunday funday and our youth with SPY. They talked of the Gift of Jesus at Christmas and the key passage again was from John’s gospel where to the Samaritan women at the well who Jesus had asked to draw him some water in the mid-day heat he said…’If you knew the gift of God and who it is who asks for a drink, you would ask him and he would have give you living water’…This wonderful image of Jesus as the living water, able to parch our spiritual thirst and bring forth new life in the most barren deserts of our life… If we will but ask him.

The image of the water producing seed for the sower to make bread for the eater, points us to Jesus. “I am the bread of life” He said, God sending his son his word to sustain and give us what we need for new life. In the picture of a seed in the hand of the sower becoming a harvest of wheat to make bread we have Jesus own words predicting his death ‘Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies it cannot  bear fruit, but if it falls to ground and dies it produces much fruit.’ Foretelling hi death and how that would result in such a rich harvest of forgiveness and new life for us.

Finally Jesus words on the cross ‘it is finish” echo those of Isaiah ‘My word will not return to me without achieving all I have reposed for it’. Jesus mission was complete, the word made flesh achieved everything that God sent him to achieve. In Christ’s life, death and resurrection all that needs to be done for you and I to be forgiven and be bought back into relationship with God and know his presence and love has been done. Mission accomplished… from manger to cross and empty tomb all that needs to be done for us to know God’s love and grace has been done…

It’s like the present under the tree, the hours of thought, the struggling to find a car park, pushing through the crowds, or hoping you hadn’t missed the postal date from overseas for that thing you found on the Internet has been done and you are given a great gift and all you need to do is open it and receive it.

May you know new life in Jesus this Christmas!

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