Archives December 2008

Sermon Notes: Holy Family, Year B

Text: Luke 2:22-40

This is the outline notes for Mass at Holy Trinity, Gosport. I plan to speak extemporaneously, so what is here may be vastly different to what is actually preached.

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

  • People ask at this time of year “how was your Christmas” – and I resist the temptation to say “I was working”
  • They say “how was your Christmas” as you might say to each other this morning – as if it was all over and done with.
  • And yet, it is still unravelling – the Magi are still some way off and today we celebrate the Holy Family, the model of family life for all of us. The work of Christmas did not stop at the stable, star and shepherds. Seasonally it carries on through to Epiphany, and beyond, into a new Church year as we continue to grow in faith, to be open to the possibilities of God.
  • Today’s Gospel speaks of the promise of the child and begins the revelation of the word of God to us;
  • Action takes place at the very heart of the Jewish faith – the temple
  • Nunc Dimittis- Song of Simeon “Lord now let your servant go in peace, your word has been fulfilled” and the possibilities of God come clear to them…
  • The words of Simeon and the prophecy of Anna come at the end of their life, they speak of completion, of fulfilment. The word made flesh completes the process of salvation, for both Jews and Gentiles alike.
  • The process of salvation is not an immediate act, but is the work of a lifetime – it took the lifetime of Simeon and Anna to see it and it will take us our lifetime.
  • There are many that will try and offer you a quick fix: a 12-step programme for salvation, a simple “say this prayer in your heart and you will be saved”, but Christ calls us to the work of a lifetime, and beginning the journey with Jesus means picking up your cross and daily following him, striving to be formed in the likeness of Christ
  • And formation takes a lifetime. Prayer. Discipline. Sacrament. Reconciliation. Study of God’s Word. Pilgrimage. No quick fix. No simple solution. Nothing that can easily be purchased in a Christian bookstore or downloaded from the internet.
  • We should like Simeon and Anna be prepared to prayerfully wait, to bide our time, to let these things come to maturity, to fruition.
  • As we do these things, we become slowly aware of the possibilities of God, and our lives are transformed, and the world in which we inhabit becomes transformed.
  • We hear of this incident, another when he is 12, and then… nothing until age 30. The time, the kairos had not yet come.
  • No accident that Nunc Dimitis is used in each evensong as we enter the dark before the dawn; no accident that I use it at each funeral I conduct as we look for the dawn of the resurrection. It’s no accident that Christmas is not over, but the work of a lifetime.
  • Let us take up that work, follow Christ on that long and arduous journey, so that at the end, we too may be able to say the words of the Nunc Dimittis in peace, hope and expectation that the wondrous possibilities of God may be visible in our lives.

Amen


Setting Children on Fire (for the Lord) – Christingle 2008

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95 Young People and 127 Adults!!!!!!!

You can’t actually fit many more than 220 in this Church. In fact, no they didn’t fit… everywhere I turned there were people, sitting on the steps, all over the place. It was chaotic, it was fun. It had silly humour and it had poignant reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation. I can imagine some disapproving, but it is possible to have fun with small children and not dumb down the transformational impact of the Christ Child.

Deo Gratias! For the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to a packed church, for the fruits of long and hard children’s and schools ministry, for the hard work and input of a whole host of congregation members, and for the all transforming, all consuming love of the God who steps into our world to make a difference.


I have achieved Nerdvana…

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Many of us have a decent TV, perhaps as mine does, with a VGA cable attached to it. I have sometimes attached a laptop to the screen in order to lead Advent, Lent or Confirmation Courses; however, it is a bit messy with the cabling and it gets poor WiFi reception and so it has in the past been less than satisfactory.

My Churchwarden told me about this little box: a desktop version of the Asus eeePc known as the eeeBox.

I saw them in Novatech today and I have to say, I am most impressed

For under £200 you get a PC perfect for school, youth club or the lounge – connect a wireless keyboard and mouse and you have complete browsing from the sofa, although I imagine that you’d want to increase the font size on even an LCD TV as the distance from the screen to the sofa is considerably more than desk to monitor normally…

It is practically silent, has a 160Gb hard disk, Windows XP or for more quick and dirty browses, the SplashTop embedded OS (a very light Linux up and running in 10 seconds) featuring a Firefox browser supporting YouTube flv video (so must have  a decent flash bundled with it). Power on to web in 10 secs, very impressive. It uses the Intel Atom chip, so although I won’t be crunching video on it, I can browse to my hearts desire. I do all my email, and blog RSSing on Google these days, so  browser is all I need. The WiFi is more powerful than my laptop, and so reception is better and it does have gigabit Ethernet as well.

There is an SD memory card slot on the front, ideal for my camera and 4 USB ports in total, two at back and 2 in front; audio and mic in front and a speaker out back. The video output is DVI, and a VGA adapter is supplied. I could push the resolution up to 1280 x 900, but as I said, I would want a lower resolution to make the fonts bigger when I sit lounging on the sofa.

A wired keyboard and mouse are supplied. It is the complete kit. You just need that TV or big LCD monitor… It even has a mounting kit to fix to the VESA holes at the back of a monitor to completely hide it.

I can see this saving space and increasing performance at the youth club; if I restricted it to SplashTop then they would be limited in what they could hack on the OS at youth club.

£200 makes it a very good value PC, clearly not the fastest available, but if you have a budget and do most of your work on the net, then this is ideal.

Oh, and it looks cool as well…


Sermon: Midnight Mass, 2008

Text: CJM Video – I Want; Luke 2:1-14

=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHEz3Vmg8Ew

The obvious question, we might want to ask ourselves, after seeing that video, is “Is that all there is to Christmas?”

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

One of the oldest traditions for any major festival or event is the giving and receiving of gifts: when the Queen visits some foreign country, she is showered with gifts, many of which subsequently end up for sale on eBay, when we have birthdays, or leave a place of work, we are given a gift, a token which says “you are valued”.

At Christmas, the giving and receiving of gifts is enshrined in the culture of Christmas. The headteacher of our local infant school said to me recently “For our children, Christmas only really, truly begins when the Argos Catalogue is published”; for the focus of Christmas has changed from the giving of gifts, from the saying to another “you are valued” to the demanding “how much do you value me?”

Last year the media were full of stories of people struggling through everyday poverty and feeling enforced to spend vast, even obscene amounts of money on their children – a thousand pounds per child in one case, and ensuring that the trap of debt keeps them captive all through the year. This year, with redundancy and financial hardship facing so many in our community, I can only pray that such pressure is lessened, but I fear that it is not.

But the giving of gifts is not dependant upon its value. When a gift is most effective is when it is not given with the expectation of a gift or a favour in return. It says “you are valued”, not “I expect…”

At Christmas, we have all been given the most wonderful of gifts. It is a Free gift, given with no conditions, and with absolutely no expectation of anything in return. It is the ultimate statement that “you are valued”.

The gift of the Christ-Child may be free, unhindered or unsullied by ulterior motives, but it is not without value.

For the presents we give each other are so much like our frail world, so much like our short human existence: these gifts break or wear out or the batteries die (often in my experience within an hour of their use), but the gift of Christ lasts for ever.

Like the most thoughtful of gifts, it is a gift which speaks individually to the person receiving it: like that carefully chosen perfume to suit an individual, an item in a favourite colour, a beautiful frame containing a photograph of a happy memory, like those the gift of the Christ Child is a personal gift.

This gift has power: the power to change us, by opening ourselves to this gift, and receiving the really good news of a God so prepared to value us, to be with us, that he should choose to come amongst us as a small and vulnerable child, we are transformed. For the gift of a child, became the gift of a man and his life-changing ministry, and the gift of a man became the gift of salvation through the Cross and the victory of the resurrection. This story does not end with this stable, it does not end at the foot of the cross, it does not end with the empty tomb or the fire of Pentecost, and it does not even end tonight as you receive the body and blood of Christ, but continues its work of transformation and change, as you leave this building with God’s blessing and into the rest of your lives.

This present will last for ever, and enables us to know intimately the one who freely gives us this gift: for God himself is the name on this gift tag.

So, as you receive this sincerely given, beautifully wrapped gift, you should prepared to be changed by the Christ child this night. It is a gift of love. It is a gift for you.

Amen


Sermon: Christmas Day, 2008

Text: John 1:1

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

So, we have had all chaos of the Christingle Service, the beauty and splendour of a full midnight mass, with the bambino placed reverently into the Crib scene and the nativity scene is now complete.

Or is it?

In Catalan homes and Churches there is another figure which I have not spotted amongst our ancient and by-now-quite-fragile crib: I speak of “El Caganer” – who can be loosely translated as “the one who is doing his business”.

The business in hand must be taken quite euphemistically, when I tell you that El Caganer takes his place in the Christmas Crib, besides the Wise Men, wearing a peasant beret and squatting, with his trousers around his ankles.

He is often portrayed as a Catalan Peasant, in stripy jumper and red hat, but more recently the fashion in Catalan homes has been to place a contemporary, maybe even political character in the scene.

[caption id=”attachment_692″ align=”alignleft” width=”480″ caption=”Gordon Brown”Gordon Brown[/caption

[caption id=”attachment_693″ align=”alignleft” width=”480″ caption=”Barack Obama”Barack Obama[/caption

In the midst of all this solemnity, there is injected a little earthly humour, a little humanity in the midst of all this Godliness.

And I say, that this is a good thing, a very good thing indeed: a little grounding in reality just as we let our pietism loose on flights of extreme fantasy.

The Christmas Crib, like what we have below the altar was first created by Saint Francis of Assisi.

Francis sought to remind people what the nativity actually meant: to ground the event in reality – to remind people that the nativity was not a chocolate box affair of gleaming straw and sterile food troughs, but a dirty, smelly, cold, faeces-covered battle of endurance for a young girl and her much older husband.

The incarnation, the miracle of the incarnation was the choice of a God who was prepared to pour himself out for us: not only at the end of his life in the triumph of the cross, but at the beginning. The incarnation was an act of vulnerable humility, of great risk.

The heresy of docetism suggests that God only appeared in human form, that the incarnation was symbolic, that the crucifixion did not kill, that Christ did not need to eat, drink or even, dare one suggest it, defecate. Such heresy was rightly crushed by the great Bishop Ignatius of Antioch in his writings and condemned by ecumenical council, but I suggest to you this morning, that there is an element of docetism in all of us, an unwillingness to accept the vibrant truth of the incarnation, a temptation to saccharinise the nativity:

“The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes”

…as that Christmas Carol goes. This is pure heresy: Christ was a child, who cried, who experienced cold and hunger and who – I have to point out – soiled his nappy. We so-often willingly collude with the unrealistic, unincarnational concept of an unreal, docetic Jesus, when we should be prepared to grasp that uncomfortable truth: that God-is-with-us, that Emmanuel was incarnated as a human being, and that he became one of us.

What is Away in a Manager trying to prove? That Christ was sinless? Certainly, Christ was sinless, but no child cries because of sin, children cry because that is how they communicate. The word, the divine logos, became flesh and his first communications with us were not the beatitudes, or even “it is finished” but a cry of hunger, of cold and for a clean nappy.

God calls you, to look beyond the chocolate-box sentimentality of the nativity images story: underneath there is reality, underneath there is the incarnation.

Peer through the Christmas Crib and spy El Caganer in the background, for he is everyman, he is us, he is the link between ourselves in our basest moments, and the mystery of incarnation. Remember that even he, us, all of us, is present at this sacred moment. El Caganer may be crude, a little unseemly and perhaps even a little incongruous amid the precious, fragile works of art in the crib, but then again, so are we my friends, and God welcomes us to the crib to worship the Christ-child as well.

Amen.


The straw that broke the camel's back… or how you can't please all of the people.

Nativity from the Sunday School, this morning. It was fabulous. They did really well.

Nativity 2008 – News report

Zoe,                                                   Reporter 1

Megan,                                              Reporter 2

Peter,                                                 Newsreader?

Martin,                                             Donkey

Caitlin,                                              Shepherd,

Lilia,                                                  Angel,

Sophie,                                             Inn Keeper

Victoria,                                          Angel

Kristy                                                 Herod/Wise man

1st Hymn -O Come All Ye Faithful.

Half way through second to last verse **BREAKING NEWS** sign flashes up on screen! Newsreader gets up, and sits at desk, shuffles papers and announces:

Newsreader: We interrupt your entrance hymn to bring you this important news. The Holy Family has gone missing! Our correspondent is in Jerusalem at the moment, [Put’s hand to ear what’s happening over there?

Reporter 1: Yes, hello, I’m here in Jerusalem with Herod. I believe he has an announcement about the Holy Family, is that true?

Herod: I want that child! All baby boys will be killed unless he is found!

Reporter 1: Harsh words from our King there.

Reporter 2: Very harsh indeed! I’m here in Bethlehem where the family was last seen with the Keeper of the Inn where they stayed.

Inn Keeper: The inn was full, but Mary was about to give birth and needed shelter so I let them stay in this stable [points to donkey. This poor Donkey was so worn out I’ve let it stay and rest and let them take mine.

Donkey: [Holds up thought bubble reading… she was so heavy! It was such a long way but I was very gentle!

Inn Keeper: I’ve never seen this stable so busy. When the baby was born the first visitors were Shepherds!

Reporter 2: It is important we talk to these shepherds.

Newsreader: We have managed to track down the shepherds and they are now with our reporter on the hills outside Bethlehem.

Reporter 1: We have been told that you visited the baby Jesus just after he was born. How did you know something so special had happened?

Shepherd: We were visited by angels; they told us the good news so we rushed to see him.

Newsreader: Angels, as you know, are difficult to locate due to their celestial status. Amazingly enough though we have just had word that our roving reporter has bumped into some, carol singing. Over to you.

Reporter 1: Unbelievably, I am here with the Angel who told Mary that she was going to have a very special baby. Could you fill us in?

Angels: I was sent by God. Mary said yes straight away, she is really special. When Jesus was born, we all got sent to spread the good news, we sent the shepherds to visit him.

Reporter 1: Do you know where the family is now?

Angels: I appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee to Egypt.

Newsreader: Nobody admits to seeing the holy family since they fled Bethlehem but we can reveal that we have found the last people to visit Jesus in the stable

Reporter 2: Yes Peter, I’m here with the Magi who have word about why they are going the long way home.

Wise Man: We followed a star to the stable where Jesus was born and took gifts to worship him. Herod asked us to let him know where to find Jesus but God told us to go home another way.

Reporter 2: So you are pleased the family have escaped?

Wise Man: We wish them well. That child will grow up to save mankind.

[All gather centre stage, around newsreader

Everybody: Praise be to God!

Emma & Lou Rundell, November 2008

All Sing: The Virgin Mary had a baby boy.

The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy:

1.

The Virgin Mary had a baby boy,

The Virgin Mary had a baby boy,

The Virgin Mary had a baby boy,

And they say that his name was Jesus.

He came from the glory,

He came from the glorious kingdom.

He came from the glory,

He came from the glorious kingdom.

Oh yes, believer!

Oh yes, believer!

He came from the glory,

He came from the glorious kingdom.

2.

The angels sang when the baby born,

The angels sang when the baby born,

The angels sang when the baby born,

And proclaimed him the Saviour Jesus.

He came from the glory…

3.

The wise men saw where the baby born,

The wise men saw where the baby born,

The wise men saw where the baby born,

And they say that his name was Jesus.

He came from the glory…

Well, after that the rest of mass just went fabulously. As we had extra time, and I wanted us to finish at 11am in order to properly thank Rhoda and Pam for their hard work with a lovely gift. Church was packed. Lots of adults, many of them newish and lots of kids.

I preached much as I had done at 8am, asking why we show such devotion to Our Lady: Advent IV being dedicated to her and the annunciation. I spoke of the distinctive catholic spirituality I offered and why devotion to OLW was important, as first apostle, as model of faith, as part of the continued and unbroken tradition of English devotion (the Rose, symbol of England being the Mystic Rose of OLW). “You preach better without notes”, Emma tells me.

At the end of mass, I see the people of God out and one older chap says to me “Well, thank you, but that’s the end of my time here. I’m a Methodist really and I’ve been coming to this church for 40 years, and that sermon has made me realise it’s time to move on”.

“Oh”

“Yes, my wife was high church, which is why I came here with her, but what with the hymn books and that sermon, thank you and goodbye…”

“But I havn’t hidden this. It’s the same as it was last week and last year. I always preach on the Catholic Tradition, the Sacraments and Our Lady… This church has in the past been very much high church and I am just restoring that deep rooted tradition…”

“Thank you and goodbye”

“Oh”

There. Nothing more to be done. Nothing I can or could say to draw that back really. No way can or should I turn back what is at the heart of my priestly charism, or what I can offer here, or what I deeply believe to be the mission of this parish, just for the sake of one person. I am sad, but resigned. You really can’t please all of the people all any of the time. This gentleman has sat in this church through countless priests in 40 years, many as high if not higher than me; and has not once received the sacraments. No amount of cajoling, encouragement, exhortation has brought him from his pew or chair to receive God’s grace – he muttered something in the past about wartime experiences and so I stopped worrying about it, but clearly there was a deeper heart to all this, and one in which I am powerless to prevent.

I am sad. I am sorry. It is my fault, I suppose. However, that is a matter between him and God and the mission of this parish which continues to grow and indeed flourish will continue in the same way: Sacramental, Marian and deeply committed to the proclamation of Christ.


Junior School Christmas Service

Junior School filled the Church today.

dsc_0586_edited-2I apologise for having to blur out all except one face, but I don’t know the photo permission status of most of these young people, apart from Megan. Hope the picture doesn’t look too scary.

The young people were fabulous, performing a play about how tough Christmas was, with fears about money and unemployment, and how actually time and love were more important than expensive presents.

The traditional images were scenes filmed the previous week and made to look like an old film. I think they really worked.

Whereas I didn’t quite hit the button with the Infants earlier in the week, this time, I managed to nail the tone, speaking of seeking the Christ child beneath the wrapping paper and seeing past the fairy lights to glmpse the holy family.

I used the best picture book in Elson: our stained glass to move us beyond the manger and to Jesus the man and his gift of Salvation. Unlike the RC Bishop of Arundel, I WILL speak of salvation to young people and make it real. I believe it worked.

You might like to use these ‘old school’ film inserts in any work of yours…

1. Annunciation

=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=BPJz_WJhjlU

2.  May and Joseph travel to Bethlehem

=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=xCRZj6OzIug

3. The Wise Men visit Herod

=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=VtP5ZMuXPDk

4. The Stable

=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=4iYDjdhGk88

5. Shepherds and Wise Men visit

=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=yFEg_QADIoM


Christmas Card 2008

=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=O_d1kXnWUN4

(also on Facebook – video www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=54857495972 )

I have tried to totally abandon Christmas Cards this year, and usually end up writing one of those round robin letters that are full of lies, half-truths and silly jokes, as I can’t take them seriously: “Jessica is doing really well in her ballet, cello and brain surgery lessons whilst Tarquin has just been awarded his fifth gold star at McDonalds by staying there all morning, meanwhile we went on a skiing holiday to Klosters and managed to fit in a small stint of peacekeeping in Palestine this summer…” You know the ones.

However, we have had some nice pictures that I have taken with my camera, so I stuck them alltogether with a soundtrack from the old BBC Radiophonic Workshop (a groovy sixties track called Vespucci); so, if you have forgotten what the Rundell family look like, and have forgotten our email address, then this is the video for you.

The real, underlying reason of course is to duck out of the obscene commercialism of Christmas and use this special time to invest in people and those less fortunate than ourselves. All the money we would have spent on cards and postage is going towards Christian Aid’s PresentAid. Enjoy!


Reflection on last night's Blesséd

The Church was transformed last night. Tony & Dave  (who make my flights of fancy a reality on all sorts of levels) constructed a womb for us  last night. Using bits from our scaffolding tower, and material from the local craft bank (why do I not use them more, I ask myself!) we created a small enclosed area. Using the youth clubs’s beanbags we lolled around, projected on three sides, used a small, low altar lit underneath by blue LED Christmas lights, amid scattered stones and twinkly fairy lights (thanks to Rachel and Emma, who read our Gospel  also).dsc_0387

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So, on one level it worked beautifully: Liam was again a technical wizard and dealt admirably with the problems we had with audio. I think we need a new mixer/desk but I simply can’t afford a new one. Does anyone have one they can give us or donate towards the ministry of blessed to buy this now much needed bit of kit?

The space was quite small, and I expected it to be cosy. It was. I was praying for 50 people to come. 30 did. Fifty would have been quite unrealistic in that space, but I was still disappointed. A few new people, though; the vast majority from personal contact or previous work. Advertising is clearly not working, so I need to work on word-of-mouth as a means of getting people to engage. That should save some money. It’s not about the numbers, but somehow deep in my priestly psyche, it still is. I feel I am letting down the Gospel, the parish; when, for the thirty people who did come, we shared a really sacred moment. We watched. We waited. We anticipated His coming.

High Points (thank you to Fr. North for ensuring that everything I do has to have this evaluation at the end of it):

  • Eucharistic Prayer to Shine on you crazy diamond
  • Love and Self-Control Ritual taken from Stations of the Spirit and spookily voiced by Nicola Soal from Aberdare. Her welsh accent just makes this meditation, and the simple power of holding stones.
  • Walking into the sacred space and seeing the lovely lights. For the first time, really for Blesséd, the sacred space has been used creatively. I liked this.

Low Points

  • Where is everybody? Oh shut up, Simon. Be grateful for what God is doing, for goodness sake!
  • Audio – crackly and only in one channel unless the plug was precariously placed half-in; half-out. Need a new 4/8 channel mixing desk
  • Forgetting up put my chasuble on at the peace. Did that invalidate the mass? Hmmm, no maniple either 🙂
  • Still having a study which looks like a bomb has hit it. So much on this week, it might take some time before ‘normality’ (if only I knew what that was) looked like.

So, overall, a good one; a sacred one. Now on with the Infants Christmas Service….


Sermon: Third Sunday of Advent, Year B

Adapted from a text by Dianne Bergant CSA http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=2650

arc_magnificatText: Glad tidings to the poor (Isaiah 61:1)

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

{show clip from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland}

When Alice fell through the rabbit-hole into Wonderland, she was convinced that she had fallen right through the earth and was destined to come out where people would be upside down. She referred to such reversals as Antipathies—though she did wonder whether or not that was the right word.

Alice may not have chosen the correct word, but she was quite right when it came to identifying the way we feel when our world is turned upside down. The recent financial crises have been hitting this community hard: as Tyco closes, Woolworths goes down the pan and Fleetlands hibernates for the Christmas period: worlds have been turned upside down.

No doubt we would be overcome by entirely different emotions if we had won the lottery.

When she finally landed, Alice discovered that the world was not upside down, but it certainly was out of proportion to her size. She had to change, to get smaller in order to enter that mysterious world.

The Third Sunday of Advent invites us into a world of reversals, a world where the captives are freed, where the hungry are filled and where the rich are sent away empty. It is certainly a world where things are turned upside down.

From the point of view of social order, such reversals could be considered Antipathies. But from God’s point of view, they are the signs of transformation. In order to appreciate the strength of today’s message from (the third) Isaiah, we must remember that he was speaking to a people who were dispossessed, a people in desperate need of a message of hope, a promise of some kind of economic reversal.

This same description of reversal is found in Our Lady’s Magnificat. There we see that the lowly enjoy the blessings that God promised long ago.

It is not that God wants to make us unhappy by turning our world upside down. Rather, God offers us the possibility of a new world. The Wonderland to which we are invited is not some mad tea party attended by an array of strange guests. It is a world established in justice and peace, a world in which all will hear the glad tidings of salvation. It is a world in which everyone can enjoy the happiness of the bride and bridegroom or relish the fruits of the luxurious garden. The dramatic metaphors that Isaiah employs are not meant simply to be poetic flights of fancy. They capture the essence of what we are experiencing internally far better than straightforward prose can. A wedding is certainly a sign of new and transformative life, just as a sumptuous garden typifies bountiful sustenance.

In order to enter the mysterious new world that lies before us, like Alice, we might have to undergo some kind of change. Saint Paul is conscious of our need of transformation, for he prays that the God of peace will make us perfectly holy, blameless at the coming of the Lord.

In line with this thinking, the basis of the preaching of John the Baptist is repentance. His message today is the same as it was last week: Make straight the way of the Lord! Get rid of any obstacle that might deter his arrival. Eliminate from your lives the greed that impoverishes others, the arrogance that tries to set you above the rest, the power that makes you abusive, the selfishness that turns you in on your own concerns alone. Today we are all aware of the destructive evil that such attitudes have spawned. We suffer the consequences of their corrosive power. But our faith reminds us that we do not have to remain victims of these forces.

There is a far better way of living in the world, and on this Third Sunday of Advent we stand at its threshold. The question, however, is this:

Are we willing to step forward? Or are we afraid to have our world turned upside down? Are we the poor who will hear the good news of reversal, or are we the ones responsible for their poverty? Are we the brokenhearted who will be healed, or have we broken their hearts? Are we the captives who will be freed, or are we the captors who have restrained them? On what side of the reversals do we find ourselves?

Advent is a time to search our hearts, to discover where, both individually and as a community, we need to change. It is a time of expectation, for we are told that there is one who has the power to heal our personal brokenness, to heal our fractured families, to heal our troubled church, to heal our bleeding world.

Saint Paul tells us that he is coming; Saint John tells us that he is already in our midst. His presence among us should make us rejoice; the saving power that he brings should give us confidence. If we open our hearts to this saving power, we can indeed transform our society; we can renew our church, we can work toward peace in the world—we can turn our world upside down.

Amen