Christmas Disturbs Everything (When we Stop to Listen to the Story!)

I walked through Westfield Parramatta last week.  I arrived early to do some Christmas shopping only to discover most shops don’t open until 9:30.  I walked the length and breadth of the centre just looking, taking in the sights.  There were decorations all over, festive signs in red, green, white, silver and gold.  Tinsel fluttered and lights flickered throughout stores.  Festive music filled the air, to the accompaniment (at least after the stores opened) of the electronic clatter of cash registers hailing the spending of Christmas consumers.  All around, people were wandering, coffees in hand, with expectant hope awaiting the opening of shops.

Within a couple of hours the place was filled with people scurrying everywhere, eating, drinking and buying for those they love.  Storeowners breathed a sigh of relief that Christmas had finally come after a long and tough year.  This was/is Christmas!  The large Christmas tree in the central area of Westfield is large and towers above the people wandering below.  Santa sat grinning and ‘ho,ho.hoing’ before the children who came to sit on his knee and seek a good run in Christmas gift- receiving.  Cameras clicked and fake snow glittered in the made-up world of Santa’s polar home.  This is Christmas!

The streets are ablaze at night with the creative decoration of homes with the latest LED lighting that glows, flickers or rhythmically flashes against the night sky.  There are some beautiful displays!  People gathered in Sydney’s Domain to sing festive songs mingled with those of religious sentiment, blending an ancient story with modern themes of a secular world.  The children’s eyes blazed in wonder at the display and the music ringing in the air.  Celebrities sand and shared their philosophies of life and brought seasonal good wishes to the world of TV land.  All through the city and beyond, parties raged and gatherings around food, drink and festive joy brightened homes, restaurants, pubs and other public places.  This is Christmas.

As the world ordered us into this annual display of overt joy and love, there were moments of disruption that threatened the veneer or peace and good will.  There were the obvious public eruptions such as we experienced in Sydney last Monday in the coffee shop siege.  Further afield the deeply horrific and sad murdering of children and teachers in a Pakistani school by Taliban forces sickened us and threatened our peaceful mindset.  Then there was the murderous discovery in Cairns that left us feeling sicker still, wondering what was happening.  These disruptions into the ordered way of Christmas were neatly managed and controlled by a media skilled in such things as thy quietly managed our emotions and emotional responses.  Meanwhile the festivities continued.  This is Christmas in 2014.

There is another disruption, quiet and gentle, that continually threatens the homeostasis, the balance, of this good and joyful season.  It is the ancient story told, enacted, sung and displayed in Nativity scenes.  It found its way into the carols in the Domain, gently bumping its way through secular songs of chestnuts, snow and the man in the red suit.  It threatens protrude into our consciousness as its images appear on simple cards that turn up in the mail.  It threatens to break through in myriad ways as the ancient story is told and retold.  It sits there because, as the crass slogan suggests, ‘Jesus is the reason for the season.’  Christmas is everywhere and ‘Christ’ is part of ‘Christ-mas’ whether we like it or not – it sits there in the word as we wish one another happy, merry, joyous… Christmas.  The ancient carols have gently worked their way into our hearts and minds and the story works itself into our being, whether we like it or not.  Christmas is here, a disruption breaking into human life once again.

It is more than this because all of us, in our deepest or darkest or most reflective moments, wonder.  We ponder, wonder and reflect on life and our lives.  Away from the shopping centre when the gifts are bought.  Beyond the parties when we are full and tired.  Beyond the flashing lights and glittering images of festive cheer, we sit quietly and wonder what it is all about.  If we let the disruptions of life into our ordered world, we may wonder why or how or what else there is to everything.  Many don’t get this far, but some do and it is here that Christmas offers something deeper.  In many ways the ordered neatness of Christmas, the photo-shopped images that supposedly put our minds at rest and push us forward, fail us when we come face to face with disruption and chaos.  When life throws us a curve ball or we see beyond the façade and into the heart of struggle, the ordered niceties of Christmas 2014 fall away and we are left empty and lost.

It is in the midst of these realities that intrude into our ordered being that Christmas actually means the most.  There are two stories in our Bible that are about Jesus’ birth and they are decidedly different.  Matthew and Luke tell us stories that set the scene for more to come.  These stories are loaded and in their simple forms they contain triggers set to erupt and detonate when we least expect it.  These simple stories of a young woman, virginal and naively faithful and of a man of faithful innocence and loyal love are deceptively deep.  The sweet images of cute and cuddly animals, gently looking on through this ‘silent night, holy night’ with shepherds and angels and later on wise ones from afar following a miraculous star contain dynamite-like power that will turn us upside down when we least want it.  There are of course images of despotic rulers who are murderous and cruel, a holy family of asylum seekers running in fear, a town with no room for a mother-to-be after a long journey. These less welcome images intrude and connect to the stories on our daily news and form a conduit for the traversing of history and ancient wisdom and the love we know as God.

So beware, this Christmas, the simple story might unravel and break out of its neat pages and into your heart and mind.  The calling forth of simple, ordinary people as those in whom God’s evolving force of love and justice are revealed.  In a tiny, vulnerable human form, the antithesis of everything great and powerful, the true power of love, the spirit of truth, justice, peace and hope is revealed.  In this one salvation is named and peace has its genesis.  A new (old) way is reinstated, proclaimed.  It is so deep and profound that angelic forms open heaven’s voice and light to reveal the Divine nature of this unfolding story, this way of love.  Into a strange old world of ancient powers and forces dark and abusive, the Voice Divine hails a new justice, salvation, peace and hope.  The Pax Christi (Peace of Christ) stands over and against the Pax Romana (Peace of Rome – perhaps Pax Americana?) that holds the world in a bright and breezy bearing that hides a cold despairing reality beneath.

Matthew says it all simply: ‘Emmanuel – God with us!’  In this story and its disruptive eruptions into our lives, God is with us, in us, through us, around us.  Not out there, a being in pseudo-human form, but a deeper Mystery holding all together, the one in whom we live and breathe and have our being.   God with us, around us, in us and through us, calling us to a new way that is just, hopeful, loving, gracious, merciful, peaceful, relational, inclusive, patient, courageous and faithful.

This way is an opening of our eyes and our hearts to God’s presence everywhere.  My father has given us some of his orchids and they sit there quietly growing.  Buds appear until flowers burst forth in beauty and wonder – there is God!  The old dog saunters across the yard, sniffing, looking, scratching, playing and God is mysteriously there as I look on.  In the beauty and wonder of the world I see and enjoy, God is there.  In the faces of people, diverse and unique, I see the face of God.  In community sharing, food, story and life, God is present.  In the mystery and wonder of life God is present and the ‘Christ-child’ is born – especially in the vulnerable places and moments.

For me, this is Christmas.  When I can push aside the lovely decorations, the parties that are fun and the celebrations marking a year-end, there is the simple, profound and challenging story of God’s presence in the most chaotic, vulnerable and simple places – there for all to embrace, behold and engage.  God with us, in us, through us, around us!

 

Some Further thoughts on Christmas

The day of his birth was celebrated in messianic strains. His career was recalled with rapt devotion. He was hailed ‘prince of peace’–bringer of tranquility–the deliverer–the deliverer from war and bloodshed. Truly with his advent, men could put up their swords. A golden glow spread its fingers over the world. Light–aureate sunlight–was the image of his reign. A golden age had dawned and mankind basked in the lustre of his kingdom: happy, contented, at peace. For their cosmic benefactor–their saviour (soter) bestowed upon them mercy, justice and freedom (caritas, justitia, libertas). With the advent of this glorious one, no less than a new age arrived. A new age and a new order–the transformation of the world; the end of the old–the inauguration of the new. In conquest, he was revered as victor–the vanquisher of all his foes. Yes, he could even say he had a god as his father; he was a son of the divine. Good news arrived with his appearance–the good news that the world had a new beginning.

He crossed the Campus Martius as Caesar crossed the Rubicon. With his entrance into the Roman Senate, Octavian began the campaign which has earned him the name, Augustus–’revered one.’ Pax–Pax Augusta;Pax et Princeps–Peace, Augustan Peace . . . and Dictatorship! Civil war ended–soldiers disappeared from plebeian homes; fields and barns were no longer summarily requisitioned; the devastation of 100 years of bloodshed began ever so slowly to be repaired. Yes, Rome was weary–weary of death, weary of bloodshed, weary of destruction, weary of corruption. And Octavian–Octavian was the man for all causes; a century of anarchy ended with his reign. On the surface, all was well in the city of the seven hills. Rome was rebuilt–more glorious than before: temples, arenas, public baths and forums abounded. No trace of the rubble of combat remained. Augustus found Rome brick and left it marble. If dozens of temples were opened, the doors of the Temple of Janus were closed. Pax Romana!

But those in authority are seldom what they seem. Beneath the veneer, underneath the projected public image, lies the intrigue, the manipulation, the cruel, insensitive use of people. Octavian ushered in the Pax Romana, but the cost of this peace was the surrender of the human liberties of the republic. Roman citizenship became little more than political and social slavery. For Caesar–Caesar Augustus–was supreme despot, chief dictator, totalitarian lord of all he surveyed.

The Age of Augustus was celebrated by the poets (especially Virgil) as a new era–the dawn of the age of gold. The empire was expanding in every area: law, culture, arts, humanities, military might, religious revival. The economy boomed, the temples were full–any and every new cult had opportunity to erect a temple in Rome. Reform was in the air–reform of manners–reform of religion–reform of the republic. But what appeared externally polished and full of glitter–outwardly successful and popular–seeming to meet the needs of the masses with program after program, activity after activity, ritual after ritual: what appeared on the outside to be so satisfying–so pacifying, so fulfilling–was vacuous. The soul of the empire was tyranny–the autocratic dominance of the many by the few. Cicero was executed by Marc Anthony. Cato committed suicide in the face of Julius Caesar’s imperial policies. Catullus bemoaned the loneliness of man. And Augustus? Augustus was a butcher–brutally, systematically eliminating every hand which had been raised against Caesar. People’s attention was successfully taken off the emperor and his reign of terror by the busyness–the building program, the revival of a plethora of pagan gods, goddesses and temples, the games and holidays.

(From ‘Pax Romana, Pax Christi’ – James T. Dennison, Jr.:

http://www.kerux.com/doc/0203A1.asp)

 

Against this backdrop the Christmas Stories were written.  Against the powers and self-proclaimed saviour, peacemaker, divine one and the good news of Caesar Augustus, the Christians proclaimed the Good News of Jesus: the ‘Son of God’, ‘Saviour’, ‘Prince of Peace’… This radical story intruded into the order and power of Rome and threatened its very being.  It turned Caesar’s world upside down as it does ours.  It proclaimed God’s peace for all – and not at the end of a sword.  It speaks of justice and hope for all, the way of true love and grace.

Christmas is here and it can last all year if we embrace it power and love!

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By geoffstevenson

A Reconciled World

This week we have been engulfed by the tragic events in Martin Place on Monday.  Susan and her mother were to visit the particular café but arrived after the siege had begun.  It is sobering to understand how close we all are from time to time from such violence and tragedy.  In context, however, there has been far more goodness and love through the responses of the community than the evil perpetrated by this sick individual.  This, of course, doesn’t bring back those who died – the repercussions for family and friends will be ongoing for a very long time.  It is to say that within our community there is more good will and love than evil and we need to recognise this.  There are many daily incidents of violence and hatred, even killing but many, many more events of gracious love, compassion and care.  Whilst those affected will feel the deep impact of evil and the grief of loss, we still need to hold up the reality that there is more goodness.  We need to work persistently towards well-being, peace and justice in our society and world.  We cannot let evil people prevail!

The other thing that comes through to me is that we easily confuse a sick, evil mind with global terrorism and demonise people of particular faiths and cultures in our desire to look for explanations and lay blame.  By every report this man was indeed an evil and very sick man.  He had a history of awful violence and crazed actions.  His grip on reality and ability to live in a socially acceptable manner within our society was very poor.  Whilst he made claims to Islamic terrorism, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest he was in way acting as a faithful Muslim.  He has been condemned by all Muslim leaders as not representing their faith, any more than Christians would accept Ku Klux Klan as representing Christian faith.  The media, including a truly awful interview by Chris Uhlmann of ABC’s AM Program, have sought to draw links between this man and common Islam.  Uhlmann interviewed the Prime Minister on Wednesday morning and kept drawing awful links to Islam and misrepresenting the faith.  Mr Abbott had to continually draw things back to good reason and suggest that we seek to work peacefully together.  He pointed out that his friend the Malaysian Prime Minister constantly asserts that such violence and hatred are not part of his Muslim faith.

We would never link a crazed madman who implied a distorted Christianity with the Christian faith so why do we so quickly do this with other faiths?  Why are we engaged and drawn in by inflammatory statements from the media?  Why are we so quick to condemn those we don’t understand or who appear different?  Why do we embrace fear and mistrust above relationships and compassion?   The ‘I’ll Ride With You’ movement that has spontaneously sprung up is a beautiful antithesis to the media portrayal, the fear and violent rhetoric against genuine Islam.

As a society we need to embrace this mature, compassionate response and seek to be curious, to meet people of difference and talk to them about their beliefs, their culture and their passions.  It is a fascinating experience as we realise that our common humanity unites us more deeply than any differences we recognise between us.  That is not to say we have to embrace other people’s faith or culture as our own.  I am Christian.  That is my path, my way but I do want to reach out to people of other faith and belief in similar manner to Jesus.  I want to seek reconciliation and peace, and to work together for the well-being and justice within our community.

This week’s reading continues to probe Luke’s introductory stories to his Gospel, in Luke 1.  It is a profound chapter that sets the world on its head.  If we are able to stand back a little, we will recognise that Luke goes to great lengths to proclaim how God turns the normal world expectations upside down.  We find God engaging a young, teenage woman of lowly stature.  In contrast to the ‘wise’, powerful, wealthy (males) of the Roman world and the Temple leadership, Mary is so ordinary, lowly and insignificant.  Yet this is whom God chooses to reveal the Divine way and purpose.  This story symbolises how the lowly are lifted up in God’s grand scheme and this story has metaphorical power for us.  This story speaks of God’s transformative re-shaping of history, through the powerless and ‘little’ people of the earth.  We have seen this story re-born, renewed within the significant movements of revolution last century.  Ghandi led the uprising of the powerless people against the powers in India.  Martin Luther King led the reshaping of history in the Civil Rights movement – the little ones rising up and saying ‘Yes – let it be!’  Nelson Mandella  came from the despised population, imprisoned and rose up to reshape history.

The story of Mary was (and is!) also important in that it showed how God’s way involved equality of male and female – in fact all people!  This story pushes through the patriarchy of the 1st Century world and demonstrates that God does not favour males over females, despite the reality that patriarchy continues to exist!  Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize and her story of standing up to the power of the Taliban is a powerful modern rendering of Mary’s Song and openness to be used in a profound way for the reshaping of history.

The ‘I’ll Ride With You’ movement has stood over and against the reporting and the commentary of several so-called experts in response Monday’s siege.  Those who are willing to enter relationship with other people, especially in this context, people of Islamic faith, are reshaping history and living out the reconciliation and peace that Luke points us to.  When we sing carols that proclaim peace on earth, the coming of the Saviour of the world and so on, they must lead us into a life lived in this radical way of compassion, reconciliation, justice and peace!  This Advent/Christmas season invites us to recognise the way of God amidst the messy reality of the world.  We recognise that we need another way and that pointing the finger towards others we don’t understand only deepens mistrust and the potential for violence – from us or them!  This Advent season reminds us that God enters into our experience and invites us to live in a different way that will execute justice and strive for true peace because this is the radical and profound way of Jesus! I wonder how he might have responded to Monday’s events and reached out to people in peace?

By geoffstevenson

Let It Be

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Yeah there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Ah let it be, yeah let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music,
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Yeah let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah let it be
Oh there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah let it be
Oh there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Ah let it be, yeah let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

 

I have listened to this song by The Beatles foe many years – our Jazz Band does a cover of it.  Something about it has always spoken to me but I confess I never put 2 and 2 together until I was reading a commentary on the Gospel of Luke and the author pointed out the marvellous response of a young, lowly, naïve, innocent women (teenager) who was drawn into the unfolding cosmic drama of the world and its powers. When confronted by an angel, a messenger of God, a young Mary upon hearing her part in this cosmic drama of God and the powers is simply: ‘Let it be!’

The commentator made the point that John Lennon probably did more to make this young woman’s courageous, faithful response known to the world than anyone else.  Suddenly it clicked for me – ‘Let it be’ were the words of Mary!  In his song, Mary, through her simple but profound response comes to John in the darkest moments and it is an implicit song of faith and trust.  I know nothing of Lennon’s faith background or what he even intended by the song but it seems that there was a resonance in these words of a lowly woman who had no power, status, authority – nothing, in a patriarchal world where wealth and power reigned.

The song points to an unnamed hope and light that comes through the darkness of life’s harsh moments.  There is a hope within the song that wrong will be righted, that dark nights will dawn in a new  sunrise, a new day.  The song looks through what it to what might, can and will  be!  These simple words of Mary echo down through the centuries: ‘Let it be!’

Mary’s singing doesn’t stop there.  If we read on in Luke’s introductory stories to his Gospel (Luke 1-2) we hear a most beautiful and profound song of hope, praise and prophetic transformation.  Luke places the most staggeringly rich and prophetic song onto the lips of this naïve, uneducated, lowly young woman.  It is called Mary’s Song – the Magnificat.  This song is a challenging, confronting, politically charged song that turns the world upside down.  She praises the God who lifts up the lowly and powerless, those who feel the weight of oppression and injustice.  The song then announces that the rich will be brought down and the proud and powerful scattered.  It sounds like an anti-commentary on our world.  It’s a David and Goliath story, a story where those who have waited long and hard, with patience and fading hope will be raised up and vindicated.  The underdogs, the forgotten and forsaken are remembered in the most profound and transformative way.  They are raised to the place of memory, of being known and given a place in the world that has despised them.

These words of Mary’s Song are a sobering and prophetic song of hope that we do well to hear and embrace.  It is the song from God’s own heart, enfleshed in the most likely place, amongst the little ones of the world.  Luke’s version of what we might call ‘the Christmas Story’ is about God’s transformative action and valuing of the world.  In this story the big, powerful people (male!) of the world are held up against the lowly nobodies.  God is revealed amongst the ordinary, the weak, the marginalised and those who long for justice and peace in their lives and the life of their world.  A baby born to a lowly woman in a small, insignificant town seems the only way God could emerge into human forms and find a voice in the world.  This voice is raised on the lowly Mary, in the life of Jesus of Nazareth and the countless who have followed this way.

This way of Jesus may be described as a ‘Let it be!’ way!  When Mary exclaims ‘Let it be!’ this is no passive ‘have your way with me and let whatever is going to happen, happen’.  This is an active embracing of the way of God given voice through the angelic messenger.  This is a saying ‘yes!’ to God’s program and getting on side with God’s profound but unbelievable way in the world.

These ‘Let it be’ words are not for the faint-hearted and this is where I think Lennon doesn’t quite get it.  His words are hopeful and see glimpses of light in the darkness.  Mary doesn’t have the glimpse of light in the darkness of a world full of powers far beyond her.  Hers is an impossible position of lowliness and the glimpses she might have do not show even filtered lights in the distance – there is nothing!  Amidst this, Mary receives the most impossible news that God is with her and wants her to engage in the Divine cosmic plan for the world.  She simply says: ‘YES!!!  Let it be!’  Her song reveals that her response is not a passive bystander in the Divine drama that will unfold but an active participant who believes in something she cannot see and strives for something that isn’t yet present.  This is faith, pure and simple.  This is God and an ordinary woman working together to change the world!

By geoffstevenson

Comfort, Comfort

The other day at the onset of the huge storms, our small, old, black dog began shaking and was quite agitated.  He needed comforting.  We held him as the thunder rolled through and shook the world around us.  He shook and shook and shook!  I was reminded of times when our children were small and needed comforting through scary moments or frightening experiences.   Sometimes it required holding them tightly and allowing them to hide their face from the world and presumably the source of fear, the scary reality.  Sometimes it required reassurance with words as well; soothing words, comforting words – words that cut through the fear and offered something hopeful and reassuring in the midst of fear.

‘Comfort’ is  something we long for in our lives when there is serious threat, fear, uncertainty or we feel anxious.  We seek comfort amidst all manner of experiences, from physical discomfort to emotional and psychological angst.  For example, in the heat of these early summer days, with their humidity, we yearn for a comfortable place to sit and retreat.  We yearn for the air conditioned spaces that are cool or the fans that circulate the air or the cooling breeze from the south.  When we receive news that is upsetting or turns our world upside down, we will seek to be comforted.  When we are physically hurting or worn out, emotionally disturbed or spiritually discombobulated we will seek comfort.  Sometimes it will be a place of retreat that provides respite from the source of angst and discomfort.  Sometimes it will be rest, sleep or distraction from the harsh reality that surrounds and threatens us.  Sometimes words and the physical presence of another person who shares our pain, provides comfort and helps us.

The experience of comfort whether from a personal presence, words or both depends on how that person and the source of those words are perceived.  What authority do they have?  Do they have power to protect us, save us and deliver the comfort we yearn for?  Do the words resonate with truth and reality or are they empty, well-meaning but powerless?

We live in a world that is tremulous with change and uncertainty on many fronts.  The media stirs up our uncertainty by providing glimpses of terror or chaos and superimposes this onto our more ordered lives.  We are not given the opportunity to reflect deeply and understand the issues.  We receive the commentary and feel unsure.  Aside from the public commentators there are changes in our world.  The order and familiarity of our lives is changing as the world changes. Immigration patterns, alongside those seeking asylum on a grand scale, is changing the face of our society, as it has for a couple of centuries.  Technology and communications have transformed how we relate and how we find information and even the types of information we access.  Conflicts across cultures, built on fear, power, greed and ancient rivalries threaten our equilibrium as they come close to us, especially through the screens that bring such issues to life before us in real time.

In our personal lives there are the unexpected moments that change our perspective and undo our belief system, our security and threaten our well-being.  This week I received news that a colleague, with whom I spent three years at Theological College was diagnosed with advanced cancer.  He spent a year or more undergoing extensive treatment and was believed to have been free of the cancer, only for it to return.  It was a shock and like all such situations disrupts our equilibrium and shatters our comfort.  The world of the person and those close to the situation is thrown into confusion Everything changes in a moment and our world rocks on vulnerable foundations.  We all know this in our lives in greater and lesser ways as we journey through the adventure of living in this world.

Comfort.  How do we receive and embrace comfort in times when all is turning on its head?  Where does comfort come from when life is hellish and we stumble through a nightmare?

This week we hear a familiar passage, one that reverberates through the ages and is brought to greater attention in Handel’s Messiah.  ‘Comfort, comfort all my people,’ says God.  ‘Speak tenderly to Jerusalem…’  It is from Isaiah 40:1-11 and is a powerful passage that was delivered to people who were living in a far from their destroyed homeland.  They were taken into exile, a foreign land, with a foreign culture and separated from God, home and life.  There was grief and pain as they struggled with this reality.  There was guilt and belief that their own moral decline led to their exile and that God was punishing them, had abandoned them and had retreated.

These words come as a powerful force that breaks into their lives with transforming power.  God is revealed as One who comforts the people in order that they might finally become what God intended them to be in the first place – those dearly loved of God who live as hopeful people and agents of the love and justice of God in the world.  This passage goes on to poetically proclaim and call for the people to prepare the way of God, a highway through the desert that will bring the people home.  The rough ways will be made smooth, the high places brought down and the low places lifted up.  There will be justice in the way of God for all the earth and the comforting hope of God will bring peace to this people in the chaos and struggle of their lives.

Martin Luther King Jr drew on these images in his famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, calling for justice, hope, comfort and restoration of life for all people.  The New Testament prophet, John the Baptist (Mark 1:1-8) uses these words and this image to introduce the coming of God in the face of Jesus.  Prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his path, cries this wilderness preacher.  Prepare the way for justice and open your hearts to the possibility of God’s gracious entry into life to transform you and the world around you in truth and justice.

In these readings the imperatives ‘prepare’ and ‘make,’ are  active responses for us.  We don’t wait in meaningless, powerless helplessness but prepare our hearts, our minds and lives for the coming one.  We prepare the world around us and make a straight path for grace and love to overwhelm chaos and bring comfort and hope – and justice!

By geoffstevenson