The messenger is coming! The messenger brings news.
In ancient days, they waited on the city walls, watching for one who carried the news from afar. The bell would ring, and the people would gather to listen. What news this day? Glad tidings? Bad tidings? And what were the implications?
And now our news is transmitted on many different screens. Messengers report from troubled spots all over the world. When disaster strikes, we know within minutes, seconds.
In our own lives, we wait for news: news of birth or death, the outcome of an interview or exam. We hear the gossip about neighbours and friends, and we can pass on the scandal or we can pray. We hear the stories and we can learn or we can glow in the self-satisfaction that we would never do that.
The news is that the messenger is coming. So we have to wait. We have to watch out for him.
The messenger is coming! The messenger brings words of prophecy.
The prophet looks at the world and tells it how it is, points out that our politics are skewed, calls us back to core values. The prophet is not distracted by sentiment or bribes or profit margins. The prophet brings us back to the uncomfortable truth. The prophet hurts our feelings.
There will be many who turn away disgusted. This is not why they come to church. This was not the package they bought in to. This is not religion as they know it. But there will be those who hear and listen, who repent and turn around again.
The messenger is coming, and he will not give us an easy time. But we have to wait. We have to watch out for him.
The messenger is coming! The messenger brings a word of judgement.
We will be tested by all the things that happen in our lives. How we respond, what we do, what we say, what we think – matters. God is not looking for goody-goodies who do the right thing on the surface, but God is looking for those whose hearts are turned in the right direction, who know deep in their souls the love of God for each person.
And our governments will be judged – and not just by the voters: judged for the way they care for the poor and marginalized, for the violence they perpetrate, for their failure to address the inconvenient truths. They will be judged for how they try to solve the problems of the world.
Judgement means facing up to the truth of what we have done. It means accepting the consequences. Everything we do spills out into everything else. When we repent, God forgives us – that is the amazing thing! But we have to own our mistakes and failures. We have to own the impact on those who have been hurt.
The messenger is coming, and his presence will cut right through us. All our hidden, forgotten secrets will be revealed. So we have to wait. We have to watch out for him.
The messenger is coming! The messenger brings encouragement.
The messenger tells us of a God who cares, who loves, who forgives, a God whom we can know for ourselves, a God who longs to get alongside us and be in relationship with us. The messenger comes through the prayers of friends, through words of thanks. The prophet who looks at what is going on and recognises what wonderful work is happening here.
And we are called to encourage, to pray, to affirm and build up the people we know. And when we do, people glow and grow, flourish and thrive. When we see that happen, it makes you warm inside as well.
The messenger is coming, and he will tell us good things. So we wait with joy. We will watch out for him.
The messenger is coming. The messenger prepares the way.
When the messenger arrives, it’s only the start. It’s about getting ready for the main event. It is preparing for the party, getting everything right: the catering, the music, the clothes, the make-up and the hair, the attitude inside, getting rid of all the rubbish. The party comes later. We haven’t got there yet.
And we are all part of the preparation. What are you going to do to get ready? In your own home, in your community, in your world, in this church? Margaret, Brian and Meg were cleaning the church. People are coming along to the Advent Reflections on Friday evening. You might be praying more for Advent or reading a special book. The children will come along to Fun @ 4 in a couple of weeks to experience the Christmas story.
The messenger is coming with a brush and a broom, to sweep away the dust and the debris from our lives. The messenger is coming to help us clear the road for the Lord to come. Into our hearts and into our lives. The Lord is coming. Get ready! Get ready!
The messenger is coming to us. And we will help the message along. We too are messengers, bringing news, bringing a word of prophecy, bringing judgement, bringing encouragement, preparing the way. Get ready! Get ready!