Have you heard the news that there’s going to be a new mini series of The Vicar of Dibley coming our way. Now I do enjoy that, especially that little group of characters that seem to make up the entire congregation as well as the Church Council.
My all time favourite is Jim Trott. The one who always looks as if he has been pulled through a hedge backwards and is always muttering …no no no no no no no YES!
I love the season of Advent because in it we have to come to terms with God’s big YES to us. His sending of His Son Jesus Christ into our midst is His biggest and wildest affirmation that we are loved. Loved beyond measure. Loved beyond all deserving.
All the people we meet through our Advent journey through scripture have one thing in common – they mirror God’s YES in their own lives.
Abraham was a very old man when God called him to set out on a journey without knowing where he was going. Many would have said NO – but this great patriarch said YES.
The prophets in the Old Testament were asked time and again to stand up and speak out against the injustices of their day, even if it meant ridicule, imprisonment, or even the sacrifice of their very lives. Many would have said NO – but time and again these great figures said YES.
Mary, a godly soul I am sure, but not one to have expected the visit of an angel with astonishing news of becoming Mother to the Son of God. We read that she marvelled at what the angel had to say, she pondered the implications of it all. Many would have said NO to such a thing… she quietly and faithfully whispered YES.
Joseph, with nothing more in mind than setting up home with his beloved, running the carpenter’s shop in the village and going off to market every so often, suddenly finds himself catapulted into a story he was not bargaining for. Looking after this girl and her precious child and giving up his dreams in the process. Many would have recoiled and cried out NO. Joseph said YES.
And if you want to go still further, shepherds who ought not to have turned their backs on their flock for one moment on that Christmas night, risk their entire livelihoods, by following the angels song to the stable. Many with eyes on their purses and job prospects would have said no. The shepherds had no hesitation but to say YES.
And kings with a tight timetable and important things to be doing in their own empires, deviate immediately to follow a star. This was an insane, naïve thing to do. Any courtiers would have counselled NO but they said YES.
So as these stories unfold in the coming weeks, the question is how can we mirror their responses as they mirrored Gods. How can we be a YES people rather than descend into the negativity of the time in which we live.
In ministry at the moment – I have never said No to quite so many things as I have during these Covid restricted days. You’ve probably heard me
NO – I’m sorry but you can’t stand there.
NO – I’ afraid this service is fully booked – there simply isn’t room
NO – we can’t take even a provisional booking for the Parish Room at this time.
NO parking. No singing or dancing in church. No to coffee. No to cake. No to hugging the Vicar even if you wanted to.
Even in the midst of all this the wider church is still debating where we still need to say NO to people who don’t conform to norms we have set up.
Another thing – is that when God spoke to these YES people, He caught them when they were on their own rather than in some glad company. Being on our own too much can be truly excruciating – when all we desire is to be caught up in the mix – but more time in which for God to enter, to get our stories in line with these Advent people. To chime our YES’s in with them amidst days when we all can end up demonising one another – which is the complete opposite of the character of this time of year.
Our Gospel reading sounds quite vivid. It’s about being ready to greet a Son of Man who is coming to shake things up and who is closer to us than we sometime realise. Whose glory might initially feel terrifying. Whose appearing we cannot forecast until he jumps out at us with an unexpected arrival. It’s reading that might take us back to Bethlehem at his first coming and forward into the days ahead for what we might expect of a second coming.
And then Jesus says rather randomly “from the fig tree learn its lesson” and the lesson is that when you take stock you are more than capable of seeing that new things are taking shape – that the time to experience fresh fruit in others as well as ourselves is drawing near. Keep watch comes the cry – for any moment now comes your chance to say YES or will it be no no no no no.
Extra times of prayer have come my way in these past weeks and I read this, one day from a great old saint:
“Through his coming, the eyes of our hearts are opened and our dim and clouded understanding unfolds like a flower to the light”
Will you let my love find its home in you – in a new and deeper way. In all this!
That is the question resounding forth in these weeks
MARK 13: 24-37