Malachi 3 1-14 Psalm Song of Zechariah Luke 1.68-79 Philippians 1.1-11 Luke 3 1-6
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
The Theme and Symbol for the Second Sunday in Advent is peace. How often during our busy days do we find peace? The other day even the peace of my home was shattered as I broke a vase which I have had for a long time. It was safely, as I thought, sitting on the floor at the side of my desk. It was broken because I was careless and stacked a few things on my desk which eventually fell on it. Cleaning up the fragments took time and if I decide to replace the vase it may dint my budget to do so. But far more costly are shattered relationships in our lives. Unfaithfulness, un-truths, hateful words, and forsaken vows can shatter delicate personal bonds of peace and inflict wounds not easily healed. Most tragic are the broken relationships with God. In the course of my ministry, I often hear the cry, “I don’t have peace with God” Even the psalmist; the great King David cries “my soul is unquiet within me” (Psalm 42)
None of us can live well without peace. But can we all remember God loves perfectly and completely? His love is a love of action – giving, guiding and guarding. He is altogether faithful, true to his promises for his people, and the antidote to lack of peace, is to put our trust in God.
As we read the story of the history of God’s chosen people, consistently they turned away from God; they broke the covenant, followed other gods, and lived selfishly. So the relationship is shattered. Thankfully, the break is not irreparable. The peace is not at an end.
God can heal and mend and forgiveness is available through the Grace that God gives.
As we look forward to the promised return of Christ and the celebration of the Incarnation of Christ at Christmas, how can we continue to hope for peace in the face of ongoing disappointment and upheaval in our world today? How can we find peace where we least expect it?
Today’s readings give us food for thought, through the prophet Malachi in Jerusalem, Paul in prison in Rome and John the Baptist in the wilderness. God’s patience is endless, but if the Children of Israel did not change their ways, the prophet Malachi told them, God’s messenger would sort them out at some future time. That messenger is understood to be John the Baptist and there is another messenger mentioned in the first verse of the Malachi reading and that messenger is understood to be Jesus, the Messiah.
Malachi warned the Jews, God’s chosen people, about their wilful disobedience. He began with the priests – no one was exempt - and then included every person. The people had offered poor worship to God, appropriated the offerings for their own use, showed contempt for God’s name and became arrogant. The relationship with God was broken and there was no peace amongst them.
Malachi urged the people to stop holding back their tithes, to stop keeping from God what he deserved. The 10% tithing system began during the time of Moses (Leviticus 27:30-34 Deuteronomy 14:22) The Levites who were the priests, received some of the tithe because they were not allowed to possess land of their own to obtain an income. (Numbers 18:20, 21) Because the people were not giving enough to support them, the Levites went to work to earn a living and neglected their God-given responsibilities to care for the temple and for the service of worship. Everything we have is from God, so when we refuse to return to him a part of what he has given, we rob him, and subconsciously our peace with him is disturbed. We might ask ourselves, do we selfishly keep 100% of what God gives, or are we willing to return at least 10 percent for helping to advance God’s kingdom?
Saint Luke tells us (6:38) “give and it will be given to you”. When we give can we remember that the blessings God promises are not always material and may not be experienced completely here on earth, but we will certainly receive more than we can ever imagine in our future life with him in eternity.
Being in prison more than 2000 years ago was terrible and could break a person’s spirit but Paul rejoices as he reflects on the future of the people of Philippi and writes to them from prison, to thank them for the gift they had sent to help him when he was in need. By helping Paul they were helping Christ’s cause. The Philippians were willing to be used by God for whatever he wanted them to do, even though they had only known the gospel for about 10 years. They were making a valuable contribution to the spread of the gospel, through practical help to Paul when he was in Philippi and financial support and prayer while he was in prison. Although in prison, Paul has peace in his heart and freedom of mind and spirit to determine what is best, and gives thanks and encouragement to this generous and faithful community of faith.
Luke’s introduction to our third person in today’s readings, John the Baptist, is full of theological promise. The wilderness is as far away from what is happening in the real lives of the people living under the rule of the mighty Roman Empire, as one could get. Rome, famous for its roads, built no road to the wilderness. With no GPS, there was only God’s guidance along the way for the Children of Israel when they wandered there, and for Elijah when fled from the wrath of Jezebel and wanted to die there. (1Kings 19:4) and for John son of Zechariah when he came from the wilderness with the cry“Prepare the Way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
In the early first century when a ruler came to visit, messengers would tell those he was planning to visit to prepare the roads for him. John told his listeners to make the way of their lives ready so the Lord could come to them, to seek the peace in their lives that repentance and forgiveness brings and to put their whole trust in God.
Can we get on to the straight road with God controlling the GPS—the Global Positioning System —for our souls, to lead us out of the traffic jams and blind alleys of turmoil, distress and an unquiet spirit? Can we trust God to provide the tranquillity, safety and peace that passes all understanding and to keep our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord?