The Seven Word Sermon: Read the Bible again! Do it slowly.
Read all about it! Read all about it! News! Good news! A Royal Baby is coming!
When I preached my Christmas sermon two years ago, the newspapers were filled with baby-talk. Medical experts discussed different kinds of morning sickness. Fashion editors mulled over maternity-wear. Royal correspondents speculated on the kind of reign this future King, or Queen, might expect. Much of British society was excited watching and waiting, and supportive citizens sent cards and romper-suits to Buckingham Palace! A few months later, the world met Prince George for the first time.
Well, now we are two years on, and guess what! A Royal Baby is coming! But I am not sensing the same level of excitement. We already have an heir; now comes the spare! But I am sure the Duchess of Cambridge doesn’t see it that way. She is having a baby, every bit as precious and wanted as the last one.
Advent can fill us with the same kind of deja vu – here comes another Christmas, and my life this year feels busier than ever before. Meals to prepare, cards to write, presents to wrap… oh yes, and maybe I should spare a thought for Baby Jesus.
Hold on to that thought. It’s precisely because Advent comes around every year that we are invited to a spiritual re-boot, an opportunity to re-focus on the message which God has tried so hard to get through to us. If we want to hear God, we need to take time to listen. We are not only celebrating the first coming of Jesus – we are reminding ourselves that because of what happened at the first Christmas, Emmanuel, God-with-us, is close to us at every moment. Perhaps we know the Bible stories quite well already – but there is often a deeper message for us if we spend time with familiar texts again.
The first coming of a Royal Baby always generates excitement. But after that, we have to choose to take an interest. Advent allows us a month before the New Year in order to put in place some good New Year’s resolutions. So let’s get real. We all have a few busy weeks ahead; December is not a good time to start something. But it’s not too early to start thinking about 2015. If you never read the Bible at home, why not pick it up for 10 minutes every Sunday and read a little? If you currently manage once or twice a week, what about 5 minutes a day? Throughout 2015, many churches will be reading their way through Mark’s Gospel; that might be a good place to begin. Or you might want to follow a daily reading guide, like the one now being passed around as a gift.
The Christmas spirit will pass.The next Royal Baby will arrive and create a few headlines. But if you want to know the deepest message which the Christ-child has to offer you, you will find it it in the Book of God’s Good News. Read all about it! Read all about it! – but the extra only comes when you spend more time with God.