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Thinking Advent through

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sermon for the first Sunday in Advent (Mattins)
Our Faith is under attack.
Well, to be fair, it has been under attack from day one. From the very beginning, we have been tempted to pull God down from His heavenly throne within our hearts and replace Him with our own desire.
In recent years, however, it has become fashionable for people who call themselves learned, intelligent, clever, wise, or understanding, to belittle religious faith and reject the very notion of God’s existence. Apparently, it is rational not to believe in God.
There have been public debates between believers and non-believers. There are countless videos on YouTube which “debunk” each other. Apologies are being written every day. Science is being raised as the new religion which only “thinking” people practise.
The trouble is, Christians don’t actually help matters.
What if God says to us,
Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.  And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
We can hear Him speak those words to those who put the letter of the Law above its spirit, but does He speak to us in those words also.
We see Nicodemus, who is supposed to be a Pharisee and teacher of Israel upbraided by Our Lord because he seems not to know the movement of the Holy Ghost.
Even we Christians can be forgetful of God and, looking at the state of the Church, we certainly can believe that. Indeed, it is because “thinking” people have tried to change what the Church believes that it is falling apart.
It’s easy to disbelieve in a god who is an old man in the sky: but God isn’t an old man in the sky.
It’s easy to disbelieve in heaven which is up there somewhere: but Heaven is not “up there somewhere.”
It’s easy to disbelieve in a god who rages and roars and throws people into Hell, willy nilly: but God does not seek to throw anyone into Hell; He separates out Good from Evil.
It’s easy to believe in a god who will accept you for who you say you are: but God will not accept you on your terms, only on His.
It’s easy to believe in a god who loves you and lets you do what you like just as long as you say you love Him: but God’s love is a purifying fire and will destroy all sin and, if you prefer sin to God’s love, then He will put you away from Him for your own safety.
It’s easy to believe in a god who doesn’t really exist except as a nice idea: but God exists and confronts us at every level with His existence and we are to wrestle and strive with Him so that we may come to love Him better for Who He Is rather than who we think He is.
God is terrifying because He exists beyond anything we can know, and for some that is intolerable because they seek to control their lives in the way that they want and don’t want to be reminded that they are beholden to a much higher authority.
Advent is an opportunity for us to reacquaint ourselves with God. It’s a good time for us to be sitting down with God in prayer and listening to Him speak through His words of Holy Scripture and engaging with Him in the words of the Creed. We have to prepare ourselves to be scrutinised by the Divine eye and be challenged for practising what we do. There is nothing more terrifying than the supreme, infinite, and all-powerful God opting to be born as a baby in a manger and offer Himself to an agonising death for love of us.
We need to let our prayer be set forth in His sight as the incense and the lifting up of our hands be an evening sacrifice. We need to pray that God will set a watch before our mouths, and keep the door of our lips. We need to examine ourselves and pray that our hearts not be inclined to any evil thing, that we should not be occupied in ungodly works with the men that work wickedness, lest we eat of such things as please them.
The spirit of this age will continually seek to tear us from God through temptation and coercion. We will not overcome that spirit by anything that we can do of ourselves, but we can offer up our lives to God as a sacrifice to make holy a world that is falling into ruin. Now that is a sacrifice that God will accept because it will be a sacrifice that is bound up with that of Our Lord Jesus Christ to Whom be all honour, glory, power and dominion from every creature on earth and from Whom to us sinners will be remission of all our sins forever, world without end. Amen.

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