Homily 4th Sunday Advent Year C - I love Advent, its a time of preparation.

Homily (Sermon) - I love advent, the preparation, the expectation

The Readings for Sunday 23rd December 2012  or Forth Sunday of Advent Year C:

Old Micah 5:1-4
Psalm 79:2-3, 15-16, 18-19 Rv4
New Hebrews 10:5-10
Gospel Luke 1:39-44
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

I love advent, the preparation, the expectation, putting up the decorations, Christmas music on the radio. And one of my favourite pieces of Chirstmas music is Beethoven's Ode to Joy, part of his ninth symphony. It's an amazing piece of music, uplifting and full of wonder.

It's all the more amazing when you think where it came from. When Beethoven wrote it towards the end of his life, he was completely deaf. He never even heard the music himself.

Something so wonderful, from such an unexpected place.

That, on so many levels, is the message we are given in today's readings. The problem is that we don't see things as unexpected any more, we are far too used to hearing these stories, these miracles, this good news. We are all probably very aware of the town called Nazareth, it's the town where Jesus grew up. It's where Mary and Joseph lived. It's very important to us, so we think of it as an important place. But 2009 years ago it was thought of by most people as nothing. The back of beyond.

In our first reading today, the Lord, speaking through the profit Micah, says “the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel.”  It was from Judah, in the back water town of Nazareth, in that unexpected place that God choose Mary to bear his Son.

This brings us to Mary, mother of God, Mary mother of the Church, Mary Arc of the Covenant, Mary most blessed of all women, Mary Queen of Heaven.  The Mary we think of, is the Mary who carried Jesus in her womb, who raised him, who stood at the foot of his cross, who was present at his empty tomb that glorious Sunday morning, who watched him ascend into heaven, who was present a the foundation of the church and was assumed into heaven by her son.

But it may be helpful for us, to think a little differently about Mary, particularly the Mary we heard about tonight. She is at the start of her journey, she's a young women, probably no more than 16 years old. From a quiet backwater town. The Mary we heard about tonight has only just said yes to God. In the verses directly before our reading she has been visited by the Angel Gabriel and told she will bear a son, her answer was our gospel acclamation, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord: let what you have said be done to me.”  As the Angel leaves her, she sets out to visit Elizabeth, a journey of about 150 miles, it would have taken a week, maybe two. Plenty of time to think, to ponder, to pray.

What was Mary feeling on that journey? Joy, Fear, Love, Worry, Trust, Uncertainty, Faith, Anxiety, Amazement? Probably all of these, probably every emotion you can think of. What was she thinking? How were people going to react? What would Joseph say? What about her parents? Would they understand this was Gods will, or would they condemn her for being pregnant outside of marriage. A crime punishable by death by stoning.

When Mary said yes to the Angel she hadn't asked what was going to happen to her, would she be looked after? She had no idea. But she has still said yes. Many profits before her had argued with God. Moses asked God to send someone else, Gideon wanted a sign, Jonah just ran away, Isaiah said woe is me, Jeremiah claimed to be to young, Zechariah said that Elizabeth was to old. Mary just said yes. Was that without thought of the consequences? I doubt that, Mary proved many times she had wisdom, what we see in Mary, is such unusual and unexpected courage to do, no matter what, the will of God.

Mary's rush to see Elizabeth, is a rush to talk to the one person who would immediately understand. And what a welcome Mary receives. Elizabeth, and the miracle of John, her unborn son, recognised Mary as the mother of the Lord.

“Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Elizabeth has seen instantly that Mary had been filled, filled to overflowing, with the holy spirit. The joy of Elizabeth's reaction, must have been a relief to Mary, and her courageous and faithful  Yes to the Lord, is transformed into pure spirit filled joy, as Mary responds with the Magnificat in the verses directly following today's gospel. Maybe you would like to read through the Magnificat tonight before going to sleep.

Mary is very much loved and respected by us for her role in our salvation. There are many prayers asking for her intercession on our behalf. But tonight we are called to remember Mary was once a young girl from nowhere who said yes when the Lord called her. Our Lords looks for workers in the most unusual places.

So, where will be the next unusual place the Lord will look for someone, who will be the next unexpected person the Lord will  use. Will it be you ?

We to are called to do the Lords work, in attending mass tonight we are filled by the spirit, in listen to the word of God in tonight's gospel we are filled with the spirit, in receiving the Eucharist or a priestly blessing we are filled with the spirit. So filled with the joy of the holy spirit, are you ready to listen to the Lord, are you ready to say yes to the Lord.

I love Advent, its a time of preparation. What have you be preparing for?

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Homily 3rd Sunday Advent Year C – I want you to be happy.

Homily (Sermon) – I want you to be happy

The Readings for Sunday 16th December 2012 or Third Sunday of Advent Year C:
Zephaniah 3:14-18
Psalm - Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:10-18
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

Advent is a time of preparation, a time to reflect on our lives, a time to make the changes Christ would want us to make, a time to look forward with hope, with joy to the coming of our Lord. Today is a special day in advent, known as Gaudete Sunday, and Gaudete means rejoice.  Today in our advent preparation it’s a time to rejoice, we rejoice because we know the miracle that is about to happen, we know that Christ came into our world at Christmas; we know that through his death on the cross He paid the price for our sins. We know that if we turn to him with a penitent heart, he will look lovingly at us and welcome us into His Kingdom. Today with that knowledge it is time to rejoice.

In today’s readings we hear some wonderful lessons. In our Gospel reading we hear John the Baptist teaching in the desert. People are coming from miles around to hear him; they are excited and want to know what they must do to be saved. John is trying to make sure that the people are ready for Jesus when He comes; he is preparing them, teaching them. That’s why we hear a lot from John during Advent, as we too are preparing to meet Christ.

John talks about sharing, of giving, of looking after each other. If you have two coats and you see someone with no coat, give them yours. If you have food and you see someone going hungry feed them. These are simple instructions, yet we only need to look at a paper or the news on the TV to know that people around the world are starving. Much closer to home there are people living on the streets in Bristol, with only the clothes they have on and they have no idea where their next meal will come from.

John is giving a clear example of the message Christ was to give. Love your neighbour as yourself. For us to follow that commandment is both a joy and a challenge. When we do something for someone else we normally feel good about it, we feel the joy of giving, and that feeling is the joy of Christ in our hearts.
It’s also challenging, to give and keep giving when you feel you often have little yourselves. We need to develop a giving heart, we need to give of our possessions, our time and our love. We need to really care for those we give to, rather than give to those we care for. The distinction is huge, we are asked to care for everyone, to look out for their needs, to love them as we would like to be loved ourselves.

The result of this kind of caring is what Paul was talking about when he wrote to the Philippians. We should take great hope and rejoice in his opening line.

“I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness.”

A caring heart, a heart that loves God, a heart that loves its neighbour, a heart that just loves, that is the path to happiness. There will be disappointments, there will be worries, there will be things you don’t have that you need. Paul’s message is clear here as well, just talk to God about this, and ask Him to help, pray honestly and thankfully. Know that He loves you so much that on the first Christmas night He came Himself into this world so that we could be freed from sin.

Christmas is only a few nights away. It’s time to prepare. It time to care for the people around us. It’s time to rejoice.

Gaudete my brothers, Gaudete my sisters, Christ is coming.

Homily Index

Homily 2nd Sunday Advent Year C – Peace through Integrity, and honour through devotedness

Homily (Sermon) - Peace through Integrity, and honour through devotedness

The Readings for Sunday 9th December 2012 or Second Sunday of Advent Year C:
Baruch 5:1-9
Psalm 125
Philippians 1:3-6, 8-11
Luke 3:1-6
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

We have had snow across most of the country this week. Monday was the biggest online shopping day ever. All the shopping centres have their Christmas lights up. The radio stations are playing Christmas music. Christmas parties are happening in offices and homes. Mince pies are being eaten by the dozen. And Doctor Who is back on the cover of the radio times. It must be Christmas, right? Wrong!

It’s not Christmas, it’s Advent.

A time of year that the non-Christian world misses. Advent has its own feeling, its own purpose. Advent like Lent is a time of preparation, a penitent time, that is why we wear purple both in Lent and Advent. Advent is a time to prepare, a time to listen to the words of Baruch, Isaiah and John.

They all talk of levelling mountains, filling valleys, straightening roads. But what does that mean for us, well to help us work that out, I want to tell you a small story about a small stone that’s sitting next to my advent candle at home.

The stone was a present from Sonny, a friend of mine, who went on a long walk to find it. Sonny spent his summer walking to Everest Base camp, a long 6 week walk, climbing five and a half thousand meters up to the bottom, of the world’s tallest mountain. My stone used to be part of that mountain, it used to sit five and a half kilometres higher than my mantelpiece. Sonny said one of the hardest days walk on his way to Everest, was when he started the day in a small village, descended 500m into a valley then climbed 500m out of the offer side of the valley to end up after 10 hours hard walking only half a mile from where he started, looking back at the village he had left that morning.

Sometimes our lives can be like Sonny’s day, time spent going down and up, but with very little progress. The valley and the mountain slow our journey. We are separated from God by the route we take. If we could only find a way to straighten the road, to level the ground, we could travel much faster and much easier towards our Lord. But it’s not in our ability to level Everest, we can't possible fill in Sonny’s valley. And we can’t by ourselves level and straighten our spiritual road. But Christ can, and Christ does. When Jesus died for us on the cross he leveled every spiritual road, and straighten every spiritual path, he made our way easier, he left us scripture and teachers to point the way like signposts alone his road. This Advent I want you to follow the signposts, take the path Christ made for you, follow him.

Specifically this week, I want you to level something, and straighten something, and prepare yourself to meet Christ at Christmas.

Actually find something to level, use your imagination, jump on a mole hill, smooth the icing on your Christmas cake, smooth the sheets, blankets or duvet on your bed as you make it. As you level something think of Jesus levelling the road for you and thank Him for coming to save you.

Actually find something to straighten. You could take extra care wrapping presents to get the paper and folds clean and straight. As you do, think on the times your life has got all crumpled and screwed up, ask Jesus to forgive you, for your mistakes.

Take time to this Advent, take time every day this Advent, spend it with Christ. Say the Lords Prayer when you open the window on your Advent calendar. Make sure that you use Advent to prepare for Christmas, make time to straighten and level your spiritual life.

I would like to finish today by highlighting a phrase from our first reading, a phrase Baruch used which really struck me. Baruch prophesied about God telling Jerusalem to prepare because He was going to show the splendour of Jerusalem to the world. He was going to give Jerusalem a name forever, a name that would be “Peace through Integrity, and honour through devotedness”. That’s an odd name but a wonderful greeting.

This Advent I don’t wish you a Merry Christmas, and I don’t wish you Happy Holidays. This Advent I wish you Peace through Integrity, and honour through devotedness.

For those of you who want to know a little more about Sonny and his trip to Everest you can read all about it on his blog at http://www.sonnybennett.com

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Tee Hee

Tee Hee.

He was enchanted. Tiny eyes sparkled open wide with excitement, His face beamed as he gurgled;
tiny hands clapped out of time; his toes waved messages only he understood. He was too young;
too innocent to know this was Christmas. He had not been bewitched by the spirit of the age. All he
knew was that it was good; he was surrounded by love.

What will this Christmas mean to each one of us?

May God grant each one of us the childlike innocence; simplicity that will enable us to understand;
treasure the true meaning of unfailing love.

Patrick R.
December 2012.