There is hope for your future

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today we remember the children who were brutally murdered at the hand of Herod because he was afraid of losing his power as king.

Here three days after the joy of celebrating the birth of Christ we are drawn back to the realities of the world where violence is the outworking of the need to control and dominate for personal gain.

Today we hear a story of a grown Man being so scared of losing his power, so scared of losing his power to a child, that he orders the massacre of innocent children to try and preserve himself.

Herod would do anything to get what he wanted. To be able to keep what he had.

Jesus born in stable came to sacrifice himself for others, Herod sacrificed others for himself.

In the story we see Joseph receiving a warning from an angel to leave and flee to Egypt to escape the destruction of Herod, Joseph didn’t think twice about listening to his dreams as he had experienced this advice before. Joseph guards and protects the Holy family from the sickening decision of Herod – there was hope for their future.

The Gospel says that Herod was infuriated, that he had been deceived. Herod’s power and decisions had been questioned and ignored, and his wrath came with the spilling of innocent blood, a scene portrayed by the haunting words of the Prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord:

A voice is heard in Ramah,

   lamentation and bitter weeping.

Rachel is weeping for her children;

   she refuses to be comforted for her children,

   because they are no more.

Thus says the Lord:

Keep your voice from weeping,

   and your eyes from tears;

for there is a reward for your work,

says the Lord:

   they shall come back from the land of the enemy;

there is hope for your future,

says the Lord:

   your children shall come back to their own country.

Here after following the star we now see the shadow of the cross emerging from the light.

Jesus born in stable came to sacrifice himself for others, Herod sacrificed others for himself.

Yet in this terrible violence in this awful death we see the hope for the future, the hope for the little ones that we killed by Herod’s wrath, and that hope is Jesus who after his own death went down and brought the children home to him and there was no more weeping and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

The message from the Angel to Joesph is a message to us all to keep watch for the Herod’s in our lives, who are the ones that fear losing their power and control that they would do anything to stop that.

Who can we protect who have no voice, who cannot cry out, who cannot fight back.

Jesus came into the world to bring us closer to him, to show us not to follow people who are in it for themselves, who can ignore the weeping and fear of others. Help us Lord to see the hope for our future, to see your hope in us as we live out that hope in the face of the tragedies that are in the world around us. Help us to be your hands and feet, to be the light in the darkness, help us to think of others and not just ourselves.

Jesus born in stable came to sacrifice himself for others, Herod sacrificed others for himself.


Prepare the way of the Lord

Yesterday my children and I took a trip into Manchester. It was wildly busy as always streets filled with people especially around market street. It’s pretty much guaranteed around market street to see groups of people asking for petitions to be signed, surveys to be filled in etc and there is always one or two religious street preachers who feel that this is the place to state their theological position on certain matters.

As I walked through with my children we came across three different street preachers. One stated that everyone was brainwashed by Satan with a huge sign, another ran through the crowd singing “he’s got the whole world in his hands” and another was sharing his viewpoint on all sexual relationships.

As today is second Sunday of Advent we think about the prophets that prepared the way of the Lord, and as I observed these three different individuals that I came across in Manchester I wondered why anyone would want to come to church at all if this what people saw every day!

We wandered into St Ann’s square and went to see the sculpture of the homeless Jesus outside St Ann’s church. There in the stillness I watched my son approach the sculpture and put his fingers into the wounds of Jesus’ feet, he peered into the hooded face, and we looked at this depiction of the son of God cold, alone, and vulnerable.

Here I saw the Christmas story and the Easter in one moment.

Jesus born into the poverty of a stable, vulnerable, fragile, wrapped in whatever could be found for warmth, with his tired homeless parents, and Jesus dying hanging on a cross, cold, alone, vulnerable.

The Gospel today proclaims prepare the way of the Lord make his paths straight.

This is the Lord that we are preparing the way for, one who came to us in utter vulnerability, in humility, as Isaiah pours out in poetic proclamation, Jesus is the shoot of hope that came from the cutting down of the tree, the root that stands as a signal to the peoples, and as the psalmist declares, he defends the poor among the people, delivers the children of the needy.

This is the signal that needs to be proclaimed, this is how we prepare the way of the Lord, not by shaming people into tick box criteria, something that John the Baptist sees in the Pharisees and the sadducees, John echos the prophet Isaiah, the axe is lying at the root of the trees of power and control, freedom is coming, and it is time to keep watch by living out the way that Jesus came to us, through indwelling, being with us, drawing us into his humble hope.

After being with the sculpture we continued around town and made sure we spoke to the rough sleepers we came across, we gave money and company, one man had his head in his hands and when we put in some money he looked up surprised. He said he felt invisible, that he mattered to no one, that his mistakes had defined him and his future.

His words stuck with me, how in this world can we have people who feel invisible? How can we have children going to bed at night cold and hungry, how can we have an epidemic of loneliness, isolation, how?

I don’t have the answers to how to fix any of this. But Jesus does. The prophets saw that he was coming, someone, a king, one who baptises in fire and the Holy Spirit.

That fire, that majesty, is the zeal, the want, the urge to do something to engage with the mission of God, to lift up the lowly, to defend the poor, to deliver the children of the needy.

This is the king that we prepare the way for, the one wrapped in rags for warmth, in the stench of a stable, the one stripped and beaten, pierced and hung, this is the king that we prepare for the one who gave everything for love.

The earth will be full of the knowledge of the lord, the path made way of hope.

The hope that burst from the womb and the tomb.

The love that came down and opened his arms wide upon the cross.

In this second week of Advent can we think about what trees that we need to cut down in our lives to enable a clear way for Jesus to come?

What new shoots are waiting to sprout from those stumps?

What stones are waiting to be split by the Lord?

What placards do we need to put down and which people can we pick up and hold close?

Prepare the way of the Lord.