Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
There is a striking photograph on the banner of this month’s South Sydney Herald. A Madonna and Child image. Syrian refugee Amira with her daughter, Amani, 3. The family has been in Lebanon for six years, and built their present shelter with wood and tarpaulin supplied by the UNHCR. The story in the paper refers readers to an Australia for UNHCR Christmas gift campaign, whereby gift-
This week’s Christmas Bowl project also focusses on refugees from Syria (more than five million have fled the country during the war). Donations will help to provide food, hygiene kits, training and support for families. God be with you …
Such images and projects, in light of Paul’s exhortation to constant or fundamental rejoicing, and in light of John the Baptist’s witness, call to mind a song by Paul Kelly, “Little Decisions” (1985). I know that Susan Cann would join me in commending this song: “Hard times are never over/ Trouble always comes/ Still I’m looking forward/ To tomorrow when it comes … Little decisions are the kind I can make/ Big resolutions are so easy to break …”
In the face of disaster and needs often overwhelming, even paralysing, little decisions for life – little decisions in the name of justice and mercy.
John is a striking figure. Our text from Luke 3 sees him animated and angry, proclaiming disaster, threatening judgement (which can be paralysing), before responding in an altogether different tone to would-
John does not issue Herculean challenges. He simply directs the energies and generosity of questioners toward routine circumstances and opportunities. Little decisions for life – little decisions/actions in the name of justice and mercy. Share your clothes and food. Deal honestly with others. Don’t bully anyone. Don’t accuse anyone falsely …
If John’s message were contemporised, we might hear him telling lovers (straight, gay, queer, wounded, disoriented) to express the sincerity of their religious conversion by a renewal of love and devotion to each other. Journalists: report and investigate in the interests of the community – fairly, comprehensively, consistently. Artists: keep working, keep going, share your visions of a world made beautiful and destined for glory – resist glib affirmations, and cynicism.
Little decisions mean incremental and ongoing conversions. Joining with others for praise and lament, confession and thanksgiving. Supporting the work of good people and good projects. Sharing resources, time and space.
Little decisions entail dimensions deep and wide. In the face of disaster and overwhelming/paralysing need, we set the altar-
And in the face of disaster and overwhelming/paralysing need, we open ourselves to forgiveness, to generosity of spirit. We are filled with the joy of a promise, “wheat” (with Christ-
“Hard times are never over/ Trouble always comes/ Still I’m looking forward/ To tomorrow when it comes … Little decisions are the kind I can make/ Big resolutions are so easy to break …”
Sometimes we feel the truth of the gospel. Mostly, I suspect, we recommit ourselves (giving, donating) to “joyful” habits of mind, heart and hand, to “joyful” rituals and practices, to one another in the joy of community. Over time, by virtue of incremental/sacramental troth-