Believing the promise

‘Our hearts are restless’, says Augustine. We yearn for something beyond our reach. Yesterday,

I spent time with a young family. The two older children, 8 and 10, were already ‘serious’ about ‘doing the right thing’ at home (helping Mum) and at school (speaking English – no Shona allowed!) The youngest, aged 4, had no such agenda; she just loved exploring everything. She had not yet developed that ache we have for what we want, what is expected.

Israel had that ache. She had been told many times; ‘come to the waters you who are thirsty … I shall make an everlasting covenant with you’ (Isaiah 55:1-3). God has always wanted to fill us with his good things. Long ago, he planted a yearning in our hearts. Israel carried that yearning, that restlessness. Her whole history is one of striving and failing, moving forward and falling back again. In Advent we remember that movement and we feel it in our own time.

We too are restless, longing for something beyond us. We have the words of those who were close to God to encourage us. Take Micah, whom we read today. ‘Out of you, Bethlehem, will be born the one who is to rule over Israel … His origins go back to the distant past. … When the time comes for her who is to give birth, gives birth … a remnant will come back … and he will be their peace.’ Micah’s contemporaries would not have known what he was talking about.

They could not have grasped that God was promising to come and live among them in a human body of flesh and blood (our second reading today, from Hebrews). It was beyond their belief. They could not have grasped it and many people today can’t either. We scarcely can ourselves.

But there was one person who could, even then. Luke tells us today, Mary hurried to ‘the hill country of Judah’ bursting with the news. She had to tell someone, someone she felt would at least begin to understand. She chose her cousin. We are let into their conversation which ends with Elizabeth saying, ‘Blessed is she who believed the promise …’ It all comes down to that. The yearning, the restlessness, the longing – they will all be fulfilled. The most wonderful part of what it is to be human is now going to be realised. God is going to come and live in us and we in him. If we can welcome him – even if our heart is more like a stable than a hotel – he will come and make his home in us (John 14:23).

19 December 2021        Advent Sunday 4C                    Mic 4:1-4          Heb 10:5-10      Lk 1:39-45

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