How good are we at waiting? In a task-driven society, it is easy to be overwhelmed with meeting deadlines and hitting targets within a strict timeframe – even during a tier 4 lockdown! Indeed, in many countries of the ‘Commonwealth’, Britain’s obsession with getting things done on time is the subject of much humour. John Cleese’s iconic film ‘clockwise’ underlines the absurdity of always trying to get things done at exactly the right time. Perhaps we need to learn the art of waiting – waiting on God. The Gospel passage for this week, the week beginning Sunday, 27th December, is the story of the prophet(ess) Anna. In the story, Anna is very old, perhaps over 100 years old and she had spent all her adult life worshipping God in the Temple. Day and night, she fasted and prayed while waiting on God. In the end, just before she died, her patience was rewarded. She was one of the few people to see Jesus in the flesh. Her eyes had seen the Son of God! Perhaps in 2021 one of the best targets we can have is to devote less time to worrying about meeting tight deadlines and more time to waiting on God. If we do this, it is my prayer that, just like Anna, we may see God.
Old Testament: Isaiah 61:10-62:3
What is the central point in our changing lives? The 20th century is widely regarded as the century which saw the greatest amount of change. The 21st century may see even greater change. Change was recognised also in ancient times. In 560 BC there was a Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who postulated that while everything is in a state of change, this change was not haphazard. There was a pattern, a logic and a reason behind everything. This was called the ‘Logos’ or the ‘word’ and Greeks (and Jews) began to understand this concept. In trying to communicate effectively with the Greek world and inspired by the Holy Spirit, John chooses to use this concept in his Gospel. Jesus is nothing short of the one who makes sense of everything. He is the word of God. Jesus is the word who is the creating, illuminating, controlling, sustaining mind of God which has come to earth in human form. That is, the word became flesh. Jesus is the central point in a world that is changing around us. As we enter a new year and a new decade with all its changes, let’s rejoice in the fact that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
How obedient are we? How obedient are we to those in authority over us and how obedient are we to God? In the New Testament not much is known about Joseph, Mary’s husband. We know, for instance, that he is not mentioned when his wife Mary gives instructions at the wedding in Cana. It is probable that Joseph died when Jesus was relatively young. What we do know about Joseph is that he was very obedient. When the angel told him to marry Mary, he did. When the angel told him to take his wife and the child to Egypt from Bethlehem, he did. When the angel told him to return to Nazareth from Egypt, following Herod’s death, he did. What about us, how obedient to God are we? How obedient are we in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, taking in the stranger, clothing the naked, comforting the sick and visiting those in prison? How obedient are we in simply doing the right thing? What can we learn from the obedience of Joseph?
The Bible reading assigned to this week is the story of Jesus being found, as a boy, in the temple when his parents were looking anxiously for him. One of the powerful messages of this story and the Christmas story, is not only the divinity of Jesus, but also his humanity. To be gently told off by our parents is part of life. Here Jesus, the Son of God, takes it in his stride. To embrace the whole human experience from birth through childhood and beyond is, for us, entirely natural. However, for the Son of God it is an act of immeasurable humility. It is like us becoming a tiny insect for a day and never complaining. Of course, the gap between God and us is much greater than this as the Creator chooses to become the creature. At the start of the new year, as we thank God for His blessings of 2018, we can thank him for his incredible humility and aspire in 2019 to be humbler ourselves.