The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Based on Jeremiah 33: 14-16 ‘A righteous branch form David’s Line’ and Luke 21: 25-36    ‘Signs in the heavens and on earth’

Advent God, may our reflections together this morning help us to find glimpses of the mystery of God’s hopeful presence shining through in our passages from Scripture this day.  Amen.

Our reflection time on God’s Word for us this morning needs to be brief to make space for some other voices in our midst called to bear witness to their involvement in global outreach.  That said, I do want to spend a few minutes talking with you about how and where this morning’s readings might be touching you in your heart, your head, or your stomach. 

For example, some of you might you be thinking something along the lines of “Now those were gloomy readings!” or “I was really hoping to get away from feeling challenged today, especially with the world as we know it feels so full of threats and foreboding.”

Still others among us might have tuned out the readings altogether, choosing instead to find hope and sustenance in the music on offer this morning or in the presence of young children, or perhaps even in the warmth of the sanctuary itself.

To my way of thinking, any and all of these responses are acceptable!  Did you know that each one of us here brings such a diversity of needs and expectations to our experience of worship that it would be nigh unto impossible to please all and indeed, sometimes any!  Besides, sharing in ministry together needs to focus more broadly than meeting one another’s needs.  Rather, sharing in ministry together, we are called to meet the real and concrete needs of those in the wider community, indeed, in the wider world. 

However, that said, seeing as we in the church understand Scripture to offer both us both a guide and a lamp to our feet, I’m curious: What came up for you as we listened to the passages Helen read for us this morning?  

…gathered community responds….

What came to mind particularly as you listened to the story from the Book of Jeremiah?

….gathered community responds…

And then we had the two quite distinct stories linked together from the gospel according to Luke.  The first having to do with the signs of the time as noticed in the sky heralding a time of great change to come and the other with the time being ripe for God’s vision of Shalom to be born.

How did these two stories resonate for you?

…gathered community responds….

They say ‘timing’ is all and what I heard in both of the passages were stories about a time of tumultuous endings and the need to be attentive to a time of new beginnings, both offered in the contexts of two very different biblical communities living under times of tremendous strain and confusion. 

In both the Jeremiah and the Luke readings I also heard a hope-filled word of promise from God for new leadership to emerge out of a time of tumultuous endings-new leadership that would be fair and just, and that would pave the way for God’s vision of shalom to unfold in a time of new beginnings. 

I also heard the promise in both readings that all of these changes would unfold in God’s time and not ours.  

What good news then might we glean from such strange and ominous stories about endings and beginnings as we begin our first Sunday in the season of Advent, the ‘New Year’s Day’ of the church?

Listen again to the words from Luke’s gospel,

“There will be miraculous signs in the sun, moon, and stars.  The nations of the earth will be in terrible pain….Terror will make people faint.  They will be worried about what is happening in the world.   The sun, moon, and stars will be shaken from their places…”

How eerily familiar and ominous they sound, especially in light of what we have seen recently on the TV news and what we can expect to see at any given moment we might choose to turn on the morning news or as listen to an update on the state of the world from the vantage point of CBC Radio. 

Issues such climate change, the upcoming talks in Paris starting tomorrow, the latest news on the war against terror, or the plights of hundreds of thousands refugees, all manner of issues seem to be calling for our attention everywhere.

Perhaps, sadly, the timing is right for us to receive these readings just as they are for indeed, as Bob Dylan sang way back in the 60’s, ‘the times they are a changin’ both inside the walls of our church and outside as well.

Finding ourselves standing on the cusp of a new year in the life of our church community, let us turn to prayer before hearing a word of witness to our faith from two lay leaders this morning.    

Advent God of Hope, hold us tenderly but also firmly to account as we begin our pilgrimage to Bethlehem this Advent season.  In each step of the journey, help us to be mindful that we are the hands and feet of Christ in this time and in this place.   Ground and guide us in prayer as we respond in concrete ways to living out our mission statement here at Knox that we might earnestly be about the ministries of seeking justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with You, Creator, Redeemer and Hope for a new day a bornin’ in our midst.

May it be so, amen.