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Saturday, 13 December 2008

Advent and the Church

Who is it we are waiting for at Advent? Who is this Jesus who we talk about being born in our hearts and in the world? How shall we respond?

Simon Barrow has some suggestions ins sermon for Advent entitled "Which Jesus are we expecting?" (full sermon is up on the Ekklesia site.)

If the Jesus we are expecting this Advent is truly the Christ of the Gospels, the comforter of the disturbed and the disturber of the comfortable, then the most important task for us as a church right now is to be the church – by which I mean to be the kind of people who are found regularly in the company of Jesus, in the midst of whatever else it is they are given to do.

Many people get easily confused about what ‘church’ is. They think it’s a building, or a religious institution, or a club for people who “enjoy that kind of thing”. It may indeed need structure, organisation and devotees. But it isn’t about them. ‘Church’, rather, is the name of a public space for risky, experimental living – for doing crazy stuff like forgiving others, offering hospitality to oddballs, sharing what we have in common and with others, learning how to live justly, and re-telling key stories of redemption and change. I’m paraphrasing some key elements from the gospels here. The word ekklesia refers to this kind of ‘zone of action’.

‘Church’ is also a place where people are specifically equipped to undertake these difficult activities by being taken deep into the waters of death and then raised through them with Christ, so that they know in their hearts how God’s love can embrace everything that could ever be thrown at us and still not be exhausted. That is, we are equipped for what lies ahead by being baptised “in the Holy Spirit”, in the life God gives beyond our limited capacities. This is vital because keeping Jesus’ company often amounts to being asked to “share God’s sufferings in the world” (to use Bonhoeffer’s poignant expression), and this is not something we can do in our own strength.

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