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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's Sermon


8th December 2002

Fr David Shepherd

2 nd Sunday in Advent

'...waiting for & hastening the coming of the day of God'

'...we wait for new heavens & a new earth'

'...while you are waiting for these things'

One of the endearing features of Victorian hymns lies in the occasionally eccentric turn of phrase. One of my favourites comes at the end of Mrs. Alexander's well-loved carol, 'Once in royal David's city'. At least it did until the 'p.c.' boys had a go at it!
In the original it ends thus:

'Where like stars his children crowned, all in white shall wait around.'

Waiting around, suggesting a kind of bored passivity hardly does justice to the vision of heaven she is trying to convey, even if we often complain when our children seem to be just waiting around!

Waiting is usually seen as a frustrating or wasteful time. We don't like being kept waiting for a bus or a hospital appointment. Nor do we much like waiting for some good. When we want it we want it now. Waiting endues at best neutral feelings and at worst negative ones.

Yet today's epistle from St. Peter is full of waiting, as those verses I read out at the beginning, indicate. St. Peter was writing to an impatient church, undergoing great suffering and persecution, frustrated by the apparent 'slowness' of the Lord in not intervening. Peter reminds them that for the Lord 'a thousand years are like one day'

In the meantime they are to wait for the coming of the Lord, for new heavens and a new earth. Peter describes the quality of that waiting. The word 'hastening' suggests an active, striving, waiting accompanied by holy, godly and peaceful lives. Peter's epistles' are full of hope. We are to wait in hope for the day of the Lord that 'will come like a thief'. Thus for Christians the hopeful waiting of Advent is a positive thing.

Waiting was also a feature of John the Baptist's ministry. When preaching repentance, when baptising the penitent, he remained alert for the one whose way he was called to prepare, as a forerunner. When the Messiah finally appeared before John he was to be found amidst the crowd muddying the waters of the Jordan. Without his austere life of simplicity and prayerfulness the Baptist would not have recognised the Christ. Recognition came out of John the Baptist's Spirit filled waiting.

As Christian people our lives are not immune from periods of waiting. Like everybody we too will find them frustrating and difficult at times.

Within our Christian faith, in our Advent hope, lies the possibility of transformation. Waiting by God's grace can become a time of purifying (another Petrine image) and of growing closer to God. It can give us the opportunity to recognise Christ in our midst and to be watchful for the signs of his coming.

To close here is a lovely Advent prayer:

O Lord our God,
Make us watchful and keep us faithful,
As we await the coming of you Son our Lord;
That, when he shall appear,
He may not find us sleeping in sin
But active in his service
And joyful in his praise;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

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Last updated 08/12/2002 12:00:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd