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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Advent 1, Year B
South Sydney Uniting Church
November 30, 2014

Mark 13:24-37

‘A loving search’

Happy new year! The wonderful thing about Advent is that it encourages us to make space for something new. Advent prayers feature words like "surprise", "unexpected", "unknowing" ... On one level, we know that we will celebrate Christmas in a little under four weeks' time. On another level, this can be a truly surprising event - for hearts and minds on a restless search or journey ... A loving search. God be with you ...

Religious writers I most admire (from St Augustine to Helene Cixous) emphasise this loving search, emphasise that religion, faith, is a loving search ... a loving search in the midst of a mysterious world. It's about how we approach things, how we approach the scriptures and the tradition. Not as stable deposits so much as promises. What is the event astir in this reading? What is the promise within but not contained by this reading?

It's about how we understand truth. We pray for the truth to come true. To say that something is true is to say that it has a future, and for us to be in the truth is to be exposed to that future. In the season of Advent, especially, we seek a way to keep the future of the Church open. In the season of Advent we seek a way to keep the future of Christmas open. We seek to be true, we pledge a troth, to Christ who has already come, and to Christ who is coming to make all things new.

If we get a little lost it's because being lost is the condition of a genuine movement - of the venture and adventure which truth demands. We don't yet know what Christmas or the Church will mean or bring or reveal or become ... the event is still astir. Philosopher John D. Caputo puts it succinctly: The only way to truly conserve a tradition is to be progressive.

If our music-making is a haunting atonality it's because we're not just singing songs we already know. Our knowledge, our beliefs, our songs are not yet the inclusive, cosmic harmonies we most deeply desire. There are experiments worth making for the sake of someone out there still suffering or disadvantaged. There are repetitions as yet untried ... the event is still astir.

At our Advent Bible study earlier this month Markan scholars made note of the "adversarial" terms in Mark 13. One scholar heard the words of Jesus as encouraging a new regard for the world: Be alert for something else, something other than adversarial relations; be alert for something more respectful, more humane, more sustainable, more just.

Another scholar understood this new regard in terms of a higher consciousness, a Christ-consciousness - a becoming wise that ventures beyond naivety, beyond self-centred concerns or wishful fantasies, across unfamiliar terrain, towards a genuine hopefulness.

It's striking that the mainstream Santa myth underlines the importance of being found asleep. Santa will come with gifts only for those who are asleep. In contrast to this Santa - also called, aptly, Consumo - Jesus emphasises the importance of being awake - being alert, being aware, being active.

Right now the children are looking forward to Christmas by excitedly preparing morning tea for us. It's just about the most evangelical witness I can imagine. Young hearts, hands and minds open to the promise of Christmas, the promise of Church - curious, creative, generous ... alert, aware, active.

Today's Gospel can help us to resist the glitter and glitz of another Christmas, and help to prepare us for the shocking story of our God who is born into poverty, into obscurity, into an occupied country; born of a woman who is alert to the ways of God, the ways of justice. Today's Gospel is also a stirring event. How will we repeat it? How will we sing it? How might we yet open our hearts and minds, institutions, doctrines, budgets ... to the truth of it?

In Silence, let us receive what the Spirit brings ... Amen.