Anne Currie
27th August 2017
Soon Be Christmas!

Soon be Christmas!!!!

Yes, I know it’s still August, I know the schools haven’t even gone back yet, but there’s only 121 Days to go… you’d better start planning! The race is off and running already… the Church Times and another worthy organ ‘The Reader’… have recently flooded us with advertisements from the Meaningful Chocolate Company for proper Chocolate Advent Calendars… if you haven’t put your order in by now you might miss out!

My Mum was a great forward planner for Christmas… the Puddings were made in January so they could mature until December, and she invariably bought her Christmas cards in the after Christmas sales… and come September she’d start gearing up… who was going to spend Christmas where and with whom, what should she start to cook and put in the freezer… and come October she’d be wanting to start her present shopping…

But all joking aside… the season is changing… for meteorologists Summer ends on 1st September… looking out of my window I can see the trees at the top of Reigate hill are no longer many shades of green… they are now browns and yellows and greens and some red.

And the light is different, no longer clear white light of summer, but it’s more mellow, golden, and there’s dew everywhere in the mornings…

And whilst there is a sense of an ending of summer, there’s the anticipation of something new too.

It’s the start of a new academic year… lots of new things happening… changing schools, starting school, off to college or university… maybe a new job on the horizon.. or thinking about retirement. Perhaps you think this term I’ll begin a new hobby.

Activities and clubs restarting… old friends to greet and new ones to make.

Who knows what changes will happen in our lives between now and Christmas!

When I was younger the best known bible story was the Christmas one, but followed closely by Moses in the Bullrushes!

I’m not sure how well known it is now among the young generation so it’s good to hear it again.

I’m a great lover of putting narratives from the bible into context. With our modern, western minds, we unconsciously put our own spin onto these stories… We have our own vision of how it was. Thanks, mainly I think to the Victorian illustrators… Jesus was seen as meek and mild, born in a warm, clean stable with lots of straw and lovely animals. Stars in the sky and twinkly angels. Everything with a mellow glow about it.

Moses… born and hidden in the Bulrushes, where the kings daughter finds him and takes him in, and the nurse she employs to look after him just happens to be his mother. All clean and neatly packaged.

But, of course, in reality it wasn’t like that… in this passage from the Old Testament which dates back to roughly 1200 BC, we find echoes of our own world. Issues of race, religion, gender and power, the war on terror, debates over immigration policy…

This extract from Exodus leads on from the end of Genesis. Joseph brought his father Jacob (who is said to have 70 children) their wives and all their households into Egypt. After many years they’ve grown into a large community. They’ve done exactly as required in the opening chapter of Genesis, to be fruitful and multiply.

But the years pass and the Egyptians have forgotten all about Joseph and the relationship they had. They now see the growing number of Israelites as a threat to them, so they treat them harshly. But the Israelites are strong… so Pharaoh in an effort to cut down the numbers decrees that all the baby boys should die and by the hands of the very midwives who deliver them… But the women of Israel who act as midwives would not do this… and Pharaoh instructs his own people to throw the children into the River Nile.

Not the first or the last time we hear of acts of ethnic cleansing it appears again in Jesus’ own birth narrative, Herod’s slaughter of the Innocents so that no King could grow up to overthrow him.

But God has big plans for Moses, so not only does he escape death, he actually ends up being part of the household of the very person who was seeking to kill him.

In Matthew’s Gospel there are a number of parallels between Jesus and Moses.

Both Moses and Jesus are threatened by the hierarchy in their respective birth places, escape genocide and both end up fleeing. Moses leads the people out of Egypt… Jesus escapes with his family across the border to Egypt. There are others too.

Moses, Joseph and now Peter have had their lives changed by a great disturbance, that is God inserting himself into ordinary lives.

All the disciples have been feeling the effects of that disturbance since they met Jesus. They are constantly having to revise their thoughts on themselves, others and God in the light of their proximity to Jesus.

Jesus has taken them well away from where they usually roam for this conversation, so we know it’s something special.

Now Jesus seeks to change them once again, by testing them… easy question first, who do people say the Son of Man is? Everyone can chip in with their answers, what they’ve heard others say. Then Jesus asks them very pointedly…. Who do you say that I am?

And here’s the turning point, the change, another disturbance… for it’s not enough to believe that Jesus is like the other prophets and messengers of God, or just to think that Jesus is a very important person.

And it is Peter who answers, you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God! What he is saying is that you are the true anointed king, the one that Israel has been waiting for, you are God’s adopted son, the one whom the psalms and the prophets have spoken of.

However Peter is not speaking of Jesus as the second person of the Holy Trinity… that concept didn’t exist then… the coming Messiah wasn’t thought to be divine, but someone who would lead Israel out from under their oppressors, specifically at that time, the Romans. Although being around Jesus and hearing and seeing all that he did, must have puzzled the disciples… amongst themselves had they already asked… who was he really? For them this was not resolved until after the resurrection when the phrase Son of God took on a whole new layer of meaning.

But at this point they acknowledge who they think he is… and if they haven’t already done so, at this point they realise that in doing so, they are joining Jesus in challenging the authorities, both Jewish and Roman! Life will never be the same again… they cannot go back to being ordinary citizens… some of them tried after the crucifixion… but it wasn’t to be.

At that moment, after the crucifixion and Resurrection, the world changed. The disciples and all who come after them realise that God had been living amongst us in the person of Jesus Christ. Something Christians accept as part of our faith.

He left us with the challenge of changing how we live, by his commandment to God love and to live in love and charity with our neighbours.

If we do this, then maybe we can break the chain of terror, genocide and hatred that pulls us apart as individuals, congregations, community and nation – a chain that we can see from Moses story, goes way back into history.

Like the changing seasons… you can’t put the green leaves back on the trees.

And that’s the point… when God reaches into our lives and stirs things up we can’t go back. When God speaks to us or moves us towards doing something… when we acknowledge in our hearts that Jesus is the Son of God, and let him into our lives, then we’re changed forever, transformed.

Exodus 1.8-2.10
Matthew 16.13-20