Pilgrimpace's Blog

a cry is heard in ramah

Here is my sermon for today, pondering Advent love in the light of the massacre of the children in America.  It could have done with some more hours of thinking time, but people found it helpful. 

Sermon preached on the Third Sunday of Advent, 2012 at St Gabriel, Weoley Castle and St Bede, Brandwood.


We come together with shock and sadness at the massacre of the children in America.  The murder of children is terrible at any time, but there is a particular starkness about it just before Christmas when we are celebrating the birth of a baby and the joy of small children singing carols or starring in Nativity Plays is very much before us.  As we try to make some sense of, to come to terms with this latest horror, something that for many of us will be echoing a brokenness in our own lives, we might well be asking where God is in this.


As I’m sure you all know, there are no easy answers we can give at a time like this.  The world is clearly not the way it should be.  We might be able to look at our own suffering and say it has done us some good, helped us to grow and mature in some way (although we know there is suffering we can do without) but we cannot say this for anyone else.  We might rightly be asking questions like what exactly God is up to in this.  Reflecting on this, I think of the raw anger of fathers at the funerals of their babies.


And the Christmas story includes this.  We remember the story of the Nativity from Matthew’s Gospel with the Massacre of the Innocents and those chilling words from earlier massacres in Israel.  A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation: Rachel weeps for her children.  She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more.  There is nothing new under the sun.


We know that we can’t escape from suffering.  Where is God in all this?  Well, one thing we can be certain of is that God enters into it.  This is what we are celebrating at Christmas, what we are preparing for in Advent.  God coming into the world as a human baby, helpless, born in poverty and precariousness, needing our love in order to survive.  Behind me is the Cross.  God does not escape from suffering but enters into it fully so that we might live.  People recognised the Risen Lord by his wounds.  The marks of suffering are still there in the Resurrection.  God is in the suffering, taking it on, sharing it with us.  There are beautiful lines in Timothy Rees’ hymn ‘God is Love Let Heaven Adore Him’:


And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod

Then we find that self-same aching deep within the heart of God.


What are we doing here this morning?  We have just lit the third of our Advent Candles.  In amongst the gloominess of the short winter days, a light shines out that cheers us and gives us hope to carry on, clarity of vision.  There is always an ongoing challenge to embrace this and carry on.  To work determinedly at hope.  To work at making the world into the sort of place we want it to be.  We might not have easy satisfying answers to why there is suffering, to why innocent children are killed, but we can become a community of care and love which answers suffering by showing love and hope and life and light in the way that we live.


In our Gospel reading this morning, we meet again the strange and fierce figure of John the Baptist.  John who goes out into the desert, lives a life of great simplicity and integrity.  John who preaches repentance.  People flock to him because deep within themselves they know they want to change, they want to be different, to start afresh, just as they want the world to be different.  This is a very real and natural human longing.  When you have some quiet moments of reflection, do you feel this?  Would you like to be washed clean and made new as John washes the people clean in the Jordan?


People come to John and they are changed, they are transformed.  This is an invitation for us to.  How do we want to be transformed?  What do we want to be set free from?  What will help us to flourish, to live fully as we want the world and all its people to be fully alive?


Advent gives us an opportunity to ask and think about the big questions.  As we survey the world this morning, we know that questions need to be asked and that things need to be done to change things.  An answer that we can give in the face of evil is to live lives that put love into the world.  What can you, what can we do this Advent, this Christmas, to make a difference, to show God’s love in practical, real ways?


The Mass continued.  After people had received Communion, there was a symbolic acting out of the lives of love and joy that we claim for all people.  At St Bede’s, we assembled the Crib.  At St Gabriel’s, we re-staged the Pop-up Nativity Scene that we did yesterday morning in Weoley Castle Square.



Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: