Advent 1 – A Seed of Hope

Advent 1 – A Seed of Hope

Theme: A Seed of Hope
Series: Advent – The Greatest Story
Book: The Faraway Seed
Bible Reading: Luke 1:26-38 (Mary and the Angel)
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain

Did you like the story of the Faraway Seed?

It had a real theme of disrupting the ordinary … The forest was very comfortable with things the way that it was.  Everything was normal, predictable, ordinary when the bird flew overhead and drop the seed and in the words of the book, “everything was not the same anymore”.

Mary, in our bible reading, felt exactly the same.  She was an ordinary Jewish girl, living a very ordinary life, in an ordinary town in the north of Israel.  She was living at home and yet engaged to be married – which was normal for a young woman of that time.  Everything was sort of going to plan, predictable, ordinary … until the day that something came from the sky … not a seed but an angel.

“Greeting, you who are highly favoured!  The Lord is with you”

And Mary was deeply troubled. 

“Don’t be afraid” the angel said.  But Mary was.  Probably because there was an angel standing in her house, but also because I think Mary knew that things were not going to be the same ever again.  How could they be … she was being visited by an angel … things would have to change … and that scared her.  This was a disruption to the ordinary … and initially … she didn’t want that.

Have you ever had one of those experiences?  When your life seems to be on track, comfortable, predictable and then it is like something drops from the sky and “everything is not the same”

  • The doctor says the word cancer
  • The boss invites you in for a chat
  • The bank balance is zero
  • Your partner says that you have to move towns
  • The police are knocking at your door
  • The pregnancy test is positive
  • Your loved one takes their last breath

And your whole life is turned upside-down.  And we are deeply troubled … and we are scared.  Sometimes we see these changes coming, sometimes we come out of the blue … either way, they disrupt the ordinary and most of us simply don’t like changes.

And so we are tempted to react like the forest did … what can I do to stop this change, this disruption so that things won’t be different.  If we block the Sun or the rain then the change won’t have a chance to take hold.  Maybe we can call upon the wind to blow this disruption away … so things can get back to normal again. 

So we pray for a miracle, that a new job will magically be offered to us, that the cancer will just disappear, that we win the lottery … but does that work?  Sometimes – hey I believe in miracles but the reality is that most of the time, in a way which is beyond our understanding, God doesn’t take the disruption away … and then the question becomes, “How do we learn to live with this change”

But let me go off on a tangent for a moment and ask the question … are all disruptions bad?  Is change always negative?

Certainly some disruptions are tragic and are certainly not good.  The death of a loved one, relationship breakdown, a person disabled in the prime of their life, having to bury your child … there are some disruptions that can never be classified as good.  Let me be clear – I can see no rhyme or reason for these disruptions.

However, sometimes we assume from these tragic disruptions that all disruptions are bad.  We become like the forest and think because this tree is different, is unknown … therefore it must be no good and we must resist it.

There is one part of the bible reading which as a young child I have never quite understood.  Mary gets the news that she is supernaturally pregnant.  She is confused, “How can this be” and she is understandably concerned about the complications of this, “What will Joseph think?”  And yet when it comes to the crunch, the ancient words tell us that Mary replies, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.”

For me, it is more than Mary just saying, “Oh well – I guess this is happening whether I like it or not – so be it”.  No – I think that Mary gets the glimpse that this disruption is from God and actually is something amazingly good.  The angel affirms, “You child will be the son of the most high … he will be greater than King David … his kingdom will never end”. 

Things are not going to be the same …

Things are actually going to be better.

This is where I love the book.  The forest resists this change  but the different tree kept growing, and spreading more seeds which grew into trees … and in the words of the book:

“Animals came to make their homes in the new trees, and the forest came alive.  A real forest of strong, tall trees and fat lush trees … and life.  And the forest was happy”.

The faraway seed brought change but it also brought life.

The birth of Jesus certainly brought disruption and change … but it also brought us life.

The forest was happy … until another bird from a faraway place flew over and dropped another seed. 

I said at the beginning of the service that advent is a time of preparation for Jesus coming to us this Christmas.  I could also say that advent is an abrupt disruption in our ‘ordinary time’.   A seed is being dropped into our lives this Christmas … let us make sure that we don’t miss the disruption, the changes, the life that it brings.

I want to show a video that was passed on to me.  It sort of makes the point that I am trying to make.  It is about a bunch of ordinary people, doing their Christmas shopping in an ordinary shopping centre, eating a very normal lunch.  Sort of like sitting in a shopping centre for lunch and finding something breaking in

A couple of things just blew me away in that video…

  • It really was something extraordinary disturbing the ordinary … the voices were just amazing … almost to the point that the images of the food court in the background really didn’t seem right.    But then again … I’m sure that the sights and sounds of a multitude of angels singing to some shepherds wouldn’t of looked right either.
  • Also what blew me away was the reaction of the people … that little boy standing up was in awe … mouth open stunned awe … but there was some other people who just kept eating.  There were people walking by and not even stopping.  What!!!  The extraordinary had broken through into and people were so preoccupied with the ordinary that they didn’t even stop.  We wouldn’t do that … would we?  Jesus breaks into our ordinary this Christmas and we don’t even pause?
  • But the other thing I really liked was how at the end the flashmob tried to just pretend that nothing had happened.  As if that extraordinary moment was just that … a moment.  But that could never happen.  Everybody who stopped and entered into that experience would not have been the same people as before that first lady began to sing.  Moods would have changed, outlooks would have been different, that little boy would have probably told everyone he saw for the next week about the singers. 

You see, when the extraordinary disrupts the ordinary … things are never the same.  People change.  Mary was not the same.  The shepherds were not the same.   We will not be the same.

When Jesus comes to us this Christmas –
When that seed is dropped into the midst of your life,
can I encourage you to nurture it and let it grow,
and not to try to stifle it.
Because the birth that comes,
may well be the birth of the presence of God
 … and we will not be the same again.