Sunday, 2 December 2012
1st Sunday of Advent, Year C, Shaftesbury
There is an old joke you may have heard, that I remembered this week amidst all the rain:
A man was sat on the steps of his front door as heavy rain and flood water was rising, and a man in a Landrover drove by and offered him a lift to rescue him. But he replied, “Thanks, but I trust in God, He will rescue me”. Later, as the waters rose higher, someone in boat came by and offered to rescue him, but again he just said, “Thanks, but I trust in God, He will rescue me”. Later still, as he was sat on the roof of his house, a helicopter came and offered to help him. Again he replied, “Thanks, but I trust in God, He will rescue me”. Finally, he drowned, and went up to the Pearly Gates. And he said to Jesus: "I trusted You. Why didn't you rescue me?" And Jesus replied, "I sent you a Landrover, a boat, and a helicopter. What more did you expect me to do!"
On one level it is a joke. But on another level is makes a serious point about how God is present in our lives, even when we don't see Him.
Today we start the season of advent, when we think of the coming of The Lord, in preparation for Christmas. The word ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming." And in the season of Advent there is a threefold coming we ponder:
The coming of Christ as a child in Bethlehem -our focus for Christmas, where Advent is heading.
The Second Coming of Christ in glory at the end of time –we start Advent thinking of that to remind us that the little baby of Bethlehem is not just a little baby but the Lord God Almighty –that is WHOSE coming we are focussed on.
And the third coming is now –the DAILY coming of the Lord to each and every one of us.
Now, my point to you today is that in each of these coming we can fail to see Jesus:
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Jews of old failed to see God present in Christ, in their long awaited messiah.
We, at the end of time, amidst all the trials and tribulations we have been warned of, will we fail to see Christ amidst our suffering? Will we fail to see God reaching out to us, in all His many different ways? Be it a Landrover, a boat, or a helicopter?
And daily, how often are we aware of the fact that He is all around, that He is the Creator holding us in being, that He is the one giving us grace to bear our trials and conquer in our struggles?
He is there, but do we see Him?
Let me make one simple suggestion to you in this regard:
If we want to see God’s presence in our lives then it helps to have religious images of Him in our homes. Those of you married to unbelievers might note that this is an easy time to slip in religious images with the coming Christmas decorations. Those of you who have entirely ‘Christian’ homes, let me ask you if your religious imagery makes it LOOK like a Christian home? A Catholic home should have a crucifix somewhere prominent and natural, a statue of Our Lady, or an image or her or the Sacred Heart –these should be natural things in a Catholic home. Yet, frequently when priests visit homes these days they look like the homes of unbelievers.
Is it then surprising that we struggle to be aware that God is present in our lives?
This season it is easy to bring religious images into our homes. As you plan your decorations plan the place of Christ among them. In particular, if you do not have a Nativity set, a crib, it is easy to buy one. I have found them for £7 on Amazon, and for those of you not on the internet you can sign the sheet in the porch this Sunday and I should have them here for you next Sunday. Similarly for crucifixes. There is no excuse for a Catholic not to have these at home –it’s HIS season after all.
To return to where I began, it is easy to fail to see God in our lives. To fail to see Him in things much less dramatic than a Landrover, boat or helicopter. But he IS there. If we want to recognise His presence at the End of Time, if we want to recognise His presence at Christmas, if we want to recognise His presence in our hearts and lives this day, then restoring the place of religious images in our homes is a good and simple place to start.