A roundup of the reflections from the 2nd week of Advent.
The harvest is plentiful …. Look at the number of berries – the old country view is that it’s going to be a harsh winter when there are many berries crowding the trees, and the same certainly seemed to be true of the acorns this year, smothering my garden! Vanessa Lawrence who is associate priest at @acnbchurch writes thinking about Matthew 9:35-10:
But the berries in the picture are bright and numerous, glowing ripely against the autumn sky, promising sustenance, and giving hope.
We harvest when the crop is ready, when it has reached peak ripeness, when the fruit is whole and has reached complement. In the Hebrew Bible the word for this is ‘shalom’, a sense of wholeness, harmony. It perhaps seems odd to have mention of harvest in between passages about sickness and healing, but healing comes in many forms. Acceptance of unresolved difficulties can bring about ‘shalom’ equally well as an antibiotic might treat an infection! When we are free from dis-ease, whatever our physical or mental challenges, we live in ‘shalom’, a tranquillity and completeness with God.
In Advent we wait and hope for the coming of Christ, we wait and hope for the fulfilment of the promise of God’s rescue, we wait and hope for Shalom.
In this passage taken from Luke 5: 17 – 26 Jesus heals a paralysed man who is desperate to get close to him.
In order for this to happen some very kind friends lowered him through the roof of a house so that Jesus would heal him. But to Jesus, his physical paralysis was not the whole story. The spiritual dimension of sin and forgiveness could not be ignored, so he forgave him his sins before healing took place.
The way disability is understood determines how people with disabilities are treated. Jesus saw this man as a whole person, do we do the same when beside those who have any form of disability?
Do we ask God’s forgiveness when we have done wrong?
When we are forgiven by God a crippling burden is lifted from our shoulders and we can then – as Jesus said to the paralysed man – ‘rise up and walk’.
Everyone knows yokes ain’t easy.
Sore hard labour their only promise
Save the yoke of God’s offer
Sores healed; burden light
This year of all years many of us feel weary and burdened. The causes are many: Covid-19, unemployment, hunger in our own country, home schooling. These and many more hang heavy on our necks. You can write your own list I’m sure. We can better know the value of this assurance from Jesus this year than in many that have come before it:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
This isn’t a divine promise that there will be trouble ahead. But God is saying that whatever we face, it will be better to be yoked in harness with God who became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood than with anything or anyone else.
May God bless you, and keep you safe this Advent. To explore more about what it might mean to take up Jesus’ promise of an easy yoke and light burden, just message us on Facebook or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have reflected in recent days on how Advent is a time of active waiting; of reflection and of penitence, writes Revd Dr Andrew Ashdown about Matthew 11.16-19:
‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.” For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
Our passage today challenges us to reflect on our response to the world around us. To what extent do we share the joy of others? To what extent do we empathise with the sadness of others? Do we respond in ways that contribute positively to their experience? Jesus invites us to make a difference. And making a difference means making a response. What should our response be? The coming of Jesus into the world gives us a strong indication. For his is a response of love, challenge of justice and of peace. Advent gives us an opportunity to reflect on how we make those responses to the situations we face in each of our lives.