not too much

Wednesday 30 November — St Andrew, Apostle and Martyr

Reveal among us the light of your presence, that we may behold your power and glory.

Readings (Click the links to see the readings)

St Andrew: Deuteronomy 30.11-14 | Psalm 19.1-6 | Romans 10.8-18 | Matthew 4.18-22 |

Of the day: Isaiah 25.6-10 | Psalm 23 | Matthew 15.29-37 |

William Bell Scott (Scotland, 1811-90). The Nativity. National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. Scott locates the nativity scene in Penkill, Ayrshire.

Three Abstractions for Advent
Mark A. Noll

Transcendence

A subtle irony of our new age
of darkness lies in this, that great
Sir Isaac Newton, maker of our world,
read Scripture year by year by year to date
the End of Time and thereby almost saw
that formulas were only able to define
the whirling mass because the Lord had made
the merest inclination of his mind.

Immanence

While Joseph mostly had enough to do
to tend the fire and keep
the stock preoccupied so both
his wife and child could sleep,
he still could think about himself,
the years to come, the plight
of age relieved by this new life
who whimpered in the night.

Mystery

On Christmas Eve as candles feebly calm
the neon glare a minister breaks bread
for worshippers whose worn, tumultuous hearts
hang on the ancient words that have been said
in just this way time without end, as if
this nourishment, this crumb, this drop, contained
the universe, the last shalom, the only
truths that ever had to be explained.
— Reformed Journal 37.12, Dec. 1987, p. 19.


Prayer

God of hope
be with us in our Advent journey
to the stable and beyond,
be with us in our meeting
and in our travelling together,
be with us in our worship
and our praying together,
be with us in our Advent journey
to the stable and beyond,
our God of hope.

O Come Divine Messiah, The Barra MacNeils (Cape Breton, Canada).

St Andrew: Scotland's Patron Saint

30 November is Cities for Life Day, a worldwide festivity in which numerous leading cities illuminate their most significant monuments to support the abolition of the death penalty.

Reflection

And at the end of the four-week journey what happens? We're faced with the greatest most shocking paradox of all: the power, the love and the energy that made and sustains the universe—speechless, helpless, cold, homeless, a baby. It's as if once we've started letting go of all our fantasies and all our hopes about getting the world under control, we're on the way to coming to terms with a God who will run away from our hopes of control and understanding, the God who is beyond compare.

When you have piled up everything you know about power in the world you will have said nothing about the power of God. When you have piled up all that you know of love in the world you'll have hardly begun to say anything about the truth of God's love. And when you have filled heaven and earth with all the words you can think of, the word of God comes through in the silence of the night at Bethlehem.

As we let go of our hopes and fantasies of controlling, containing, securing the world and ourselves, it's not just that we're allowing the world to be itself. At the end of the day we're allowing God to be God; allowing God to be not one thing among others, not one little bit of the world jostling for position with other bits of the world, for God to be, and to be that life from which all being and all life flows.

And it seems we can only get that point when we see that energy, that power, in the weakness of God made flesh among us. We turn from that extraordinary vision to heaven in ordinary, to looking at our neighbours and the things of our world with new eyes, looking with those wide angelic eyes that see everything and everyone around us as pregnant with God, as capable of surprising us into new life and new vision and new action. We begin to see a world transformed … the world in relation to God in its own life, its own beauty, its own freedom.
—Rowan Williams, Sermon at an Advent Carol Service at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, 27 Nov. 2011.


May the Lord, when he comes, find us watching and waiting. Amen.