For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord
Romans 16: 25=27 The mystery kept secret for endless ages is now revealed.
Luke 1: 26-38 You will conceive and bear a son.
“The message I preach, and which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith.”
St Paul’s striking words call us back to a deep truth that is well worth our consideration as we approach this Christmas time.
This week, the peace of our city has been shattered by a dramatic violent event in Martin Place. The massacre of school students in Peshawar in Pakistan has rocked that nation and the rest of us. The violent deaths of eight children in Cairns a two days’ ago has had has shaking our heads and pondering our hearts.
We wonder what is happening to our world.
These violent events strike us in part because of their dramatic circumstances and the deep sense we have of lives that days ago were full of promise have been lost needlessly.
In a sense we’ve been brought to our knees, wondering what is happening to our world and our society.
We hear news of violent and sometimes deadly attacks on people almost every day in our news bulletins. We can perhaps step back from some of these events as they appear to be the result of conflicts between gangs, families or individuals who don’t impact on our lives so much. We can even become a bit immune from the impact of these events and take them as somehow “normal” occurrences.
However they do leave their mark on us and we can easily come to the point where we regard violence as a normal behaviour in our society. We can even lose hope in the future of humanity altogether.
The mystery of which Paul speaks is our antidote, our release, our hope. This revelation “kept secret for endless ages” as Paul says, is unveiled for us in the person of Jesus.
Here in a man who appears to be just one of us, who is born in times of chaos and violence like our own, who emerges from a society of saints and sinners like our own, here is a man who breaks the mould.
No longer do fear, violence, unfettered anger need to be our weapons of choice.
Jesus taps in to our deep longing for peace and happiness, and shows us in his words and in his life, death and resurrection, that these longings can be fulfilled, that they have a price tag, and that they don’t come automatically.
We, each of us, if we would create this peaceful world, must make some choices. We all know what these choices are. We all baulk at the price of them. Deep down, we all long for the peace and freedom that making these good choices will achieve.
We wish someone else would make the choices for us, run the hard metres, confront the blockages to peace on our behalf.
It’s a risky business being a peace-maker!
Given that we are all wounded by what the Church calls Original Sin, that propensity we all have to mess things up in our lives, we find the challenge of rising above this original sin a bit too much.
The mystery of Jesus’ presence comes into play here, just as we are about to give up on ourselves and our world.
We see his beauty, his selfless love, his ability to love even his enemies, his capacity to forgive. We long to develop these qualities in ourselves and at the same time we want to hang on to that bit of self-importance that is the seed of our addiction, violence, prejudice and we hedge our bets.
In the gospel reading this morning we hear the angel’s first words to Mary: “Do not be afraid”. We would do well to take those simple words on board, “Do not be afraid”. Do not be afraid to open your heart to the coming of the one we call our Saviour and allow him to grace us with his presence to the point where we begin to forgive, begin to be free of the need to have revenge, where we begin to taste the joy that loving even our enemies can create.
Like the people who have been reaching out with tender hearts this week to women wearing their Hijabs, with the gentle offer, “Do not be afraid, I will walk with you,” Jesus comes to us with the same invitation: “I will walk with you through your doubts, your fears, your despair at the state of the world, and in you I will create a haven of hope for anyone who comes to know you.”
Our mission as a community of faith is to become that haven of hope for anyone who comes to know us.
As we celebrate his birth this Christmas, let us turn our attention to our troubled world, knowing that mystery hidden from endless ages, the mystery of love who alone is our life and our peace is ours to taste, and ours to share.
The extraordinary gift of flowers in Martin Place are evidence that this mystery of love is still alive and well among us.
As the angel says to Mary, “nothing is impossible to God.” Mary replies, “Then let’s get work here and allow that love to appear, that love and hope who can be seen and known in something as simple and commonplace as in the birth of a tiny baby.”