Advent 1b – Advent Sunday – Sunday 27th November 2011
Bit late posting my blog this week. But hey, it’s just been one of those manic weeks, where the odds were stacked against me from the start. But I’m here, 48 hours late – just catching the last train home, metaphorically speaking.
Talking of which, good job I wasn’t John the Baptist. “Sorry I’m a bit late, but make straight a path in the desert for the Lord to travel. I haven’t missed him have I?”
If I was John the Baptist I wouldn’t be giving an announcement, more like a report. “He’s been, he’s gone, I missed him!”
Still, we have our part to play, not somebody else’s. And that’s what so important about Advent.
I remember when I was small child I would eagerly wait to be assigned the part I would play in the Church Nativity play and the primary school concert. Would I be the Inn Keeper, a shepherd, part of the choir, a walk on part? I was disappointed on a number of occasions – you know, when you get cast as a shepherd’s friend, not a proper shepherd, just a friend! – but at least I was never crushed. I never had a burning desire to be Joseph or the Archangel Gabriel. I was quite happy taking part and not stealing the limelight, I was quite happy with who I was.
Advent some 30-odd years later and I think it’s important to tell people to be themselves. They have their part to play. Not somebody else’s. They are not just a face in the crowd. They have their own God-given calling to be a part of the wonderful story of faith. There are two ways people can miss out on this experience – by not listening themselves, or being deny their rightful kingdom place.
People deny themselves when they aspire to be someone else – like when I wear the costume of a wise man instead of the clothes of Neil Chappell (please no wise cracks about the incompatibility of me and wise men!). Or even when people think they’ve no part to play, that they should just be a spectator. I’m me, because God created me to be me. I always remember my Sunday School Teacher sitting one of the children down at the first Nativity rehearsals and saying, “I’ve written you a part as Arthur to give the Nativity a modern day feel.” Well, the good news is God has written me a part as Neil to give faith another dimension. Because God values me. God cares for me. God believes I’m special. God has written a part in his plans for each one of us – whether we fluff the lines is up to us.
Secondly, one of the saddest aspects of faith is when leaders and other Christians squash the dreams of people. By telling them their worthless. Or someone else is doing that job. Or they’re not quite up to scratch. Or their faith isn’t quite authentic and sound. Or by being rude and graceless. By ignoring them or being patronising.
We need to value ourselves and each other as fully fledged, fully paid up, fully qualified members of God’s kingdom. Do you see the green shoots on the branches in your church this Advent? Then the Advent message is truly being proclaimed.
Don’t miss the last train home.