From the Manse

A message from Rev. Dan Harper, November/December 2017

From the Manse

Advent is a time of reflection and preparation. Reflection on what it means for God to have been made flesh in the world through Jesus, and preparation for what it means for Jesus to come back.

However as we process what that means and recognise that God is with us now, through the Holy Spirit, then we should be living in the Kingdom of God now, preparing for and living in the present, and not crossing our fingers and hoping for the future.

The journey through Advent is not thinking about how snowy Christmases once were, or thinking about Jesus as a tiny baby and something to be cooed at. That is missing the point of what the Prophets of the Old Testament longed for and neuters Jesus as the embodiment of God on Earth.

We can think about Christmas as Christmas comes, but let us think in the first place about Advent. A time when we long for the Kingdom of God, the Messiah to reign, whilst all the time remembering that God is on Earth with us and we should be living as we are in the Kingdom of God now.

Throughout Advent it is worth us taking time as individuals to think about what the Prophets were longing for and what the arrival of Christ in the world represented. The incarnation of God – with-Us, Immanuel, is a fulfilment of the four major themes of the Prophets’ are articulated in the writing of Marcus J Borg and are as follows…

Liberation from bondage

Liberation from bondage from the Pharaohs and Herods and Caesars who dominate us and the world. These include oppressive political and economic systems and also psychological-spiritual agents of oppression.

Return from exile

Return from exile from life in Babylon. As a biblical metaphor, Babylon has political and economic meanings as well as psychological-spiritual meanings. The latter refer to the separation and estrangement that most often mark our lives.
“Estrangement” is an especially resonant word: it means to be 5 separated from that to which we belong. Return from exile is about re-connection to that from which we have become estranged.

Light in the darkness

The stories of Jesus’ birth are full of light imagery. In Matthew, the star in the night sky that leads the wise men to Jesus; in Luke, angels singing to shepherds in the middle of the night. Like liberation from bondage and return from exile, light in the darkness is an archetypal image of human yearning. It is no
accident that when Christians in the fourth century formally decided on the date of Jesus’ birth, they chose the winter solstice: the time when light begins to vanquish the darkness.

Yearning and fulfilment

Desires not so much a separate theme, but built into the previous themes. We yearn for liberation from bondage in Egypt, for return from exile in Babylon, for the coming of the light. But it deserves to be named as a major theme because of the way that the birth stories (and the gospels and the New Testament as a whole) emphasize that what happened in Jesus is the fulfillment of our
deepest longings.

Advent should be about all of this. It is a season of anticipation, yearning and longing for a different kind of life and a different kind of world. To reduce it to a penitential season of preparing for the second coming of Jesus, or a season of remembering that Jesus was born so that he could pay for our sins, is a tragic
travesty of Advent, Christmas, and Christianity.

God Bless