Sunday, December 07, 2014

Comforting terror and glorious fear?

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the second Sunday in Advent 2014

Our Lord is not always very comforting, is He?

In fact everything He says seems to be a bit of a challenge for us. It’s not enough to tolerate our enemies, we have to love them. It’s not enough to forgive freely, but if we even think we’ve done wrong to someone else then we have to go and sort that out straightaway! It’s not enough to put something in the collection plate, you have to put in something of substantial value!

There’s always a challenge.

That’s usually because Our Lord wants us to remember that we are not perfect. There’s always a limit to what we are able to do to worship God, and it’s not exactly comfortable. However, we Christians remember that, when Christ comes again, all things will be perfected in Him. This is our hope.

So what does Our Lord say about His coming again?

“[T]here shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory”

Here we are, looking forward to Our Lord’s return and we’re faced with distress, fear and terror. What hope is there in that?


If you think about it, the problem is not of the Second Coming, but the events that apparently lead up to it. Our Lord is being very clear when he says that there will be terrible things about to happen, but it is after these that He comes again. This tells us two things: first, that the terrible things will finish. second, that His coming again will be glorious!

St Paul reminds us that, “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” As we pray, we need to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest our Scripture. If we look very carefully at the Old Testament, we see wars, rumours of wars, signs in the sun, moon and stars, distress of nations, the raging of the sea. People are always looking for the end of the world in the most ridiculous place.

There are those who seek to know the future from astrology, thinking that the configuration of the planets determines what will be. There are those who think that the signs of the future are foretold by birds. People despair at the wars raging, they fear natural disasters, they are frightened of Global warming and they lose hope. Their hearts fail them because they look for the end of the world in material terms.

Our Lord challenges us to let go. The Holy Scripture points to its fulfilment in Christ Himself, not in things of the world. Whatever happens on Earth, Christ is beyond it. If anyone wants to be saved from the world, we must let go of the concerns of the world and look beyond it to Our Lord Jesus. That’s not to say that we should neglect the world at all. It is God’s creation and we must look after it, but we need not fear because Christ will come again in great glory. Yes, there will be times ahead that will test us, frighten us and terrify us. If we try to look beyond that fear and trembling, we will find Christ standing there waiting for us. Perhaps it is not us waiting for Him, but Him waiting for us!

This is our challenge, this Christmas and every Christmas. Can we let go of the world enough to see the Lord come into the world?

No comments: