The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle
Reflections from Catherine Wilson
Sunday - 5 December 2021 - The Second Sunday in Advent
Gathering into the presence of God.
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.”
Dear friends in Crail and St Ayle,
Although I am still apprehensive when I start to develop a Sunday Reflection for circulation, I am grateful for having been asked to do this, because I am learning so much about the Bible and reading more of the scriptures. Until now, I knew nothing about Malachi, whose words I have chosen to use as we gather in the presence of God, beyond the fact that it is the name of the last book in the Old Testament.
Apparently, there is a fair degree of uncertainty about who Malachi was. He is portrayed as being an angry man who had a very powerful message to give to his people, around 450 BC. It was then five decades since the temple had been rebuilt, ample time for people to fall into corruption and lax practices in their worship, according to Malachi. Like many of the prophets before him, Malachi exhorted the people to mend their ways, to turn away from wrong-doing and to return to the decrees of God.
While Malachi was an angry man, Paul, in his writing of his letter to the Philippians (another of the passages listed in the lectionary for today), is described variously as a happy man and a joyful man. Despite all his adversities, he is filled with love for the Christians of Philippi and for God, and as such he is at peace, full of hope and in the darkness of his prison cell his life is lit up by his faith in Christ. May this time of Advent bring these qualities into our lives.
The Word of God: Philippians Chapter 1 v 3 – 11
“ 3 I thank my God every time I remember you.
4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.
8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Paul often does not get a particularly good press, and yet in the passage above we can see what a remarkable man he is, illustrating in his joyful words, as he writes from prison, what it is to lead a Christian life of love, fellowship and hope. He recalls and draws strength from his memories of the past, from the time of his first visit to Philippi, to the present. He then turns, from these precious memories of the past to rejoice in his continuing fellowship with this loving and faithful community. And in verses 6- 8, he expresses confidence as he looks forward to the future, writing that the same God who has begun "a good work" in the Philippians will continue that work in them into the future – Precious memories, precious fellowship and precious hope.
Is it not the same with all Christians, anytime and anywhere? I suspect we all have precious memories of, and give thanks for, those who have been important to us in our faith journey so far. We also need to make time to thank God for the precious fellowship that we enjoy in our church community today, a fellowship that supports, guides and encourages us, so that we increase in confidence and in our hopes for the future.
The beauty and power in this reading comes in the concluding verses, in what is known by some as Paul’s Apostolic Prayer. As Advent unfolds, and as we prepare ourselves for Christmas, this is the prayer that should be on the lips of us all – a prayer that we will be fully prepared to celebrate afresh the embodiment of God the Son in human flesh as Jesus Christ.
Lord Jesus Christ,
we praise you today for all those who prepared the way for your coming
all who made a straight path in the wilderness
so that the hearts of many were ready to receive you
We praise you for the prophets who foretold of your birth;
we praise you for Mary and Joseph, for their obedience to your call;
we praise you for John the Baptist and his willingness to point towards your light;
we praise you for all the evangelists and apostles who recorded the events of your ministry
and testified to their experience of your grace.
Lord Jesus, help us to make your path straight in the wilderness,
So that the hearts of many may be ready to receive you today
Help us to prepare your way.
Lord Jesus, light of the world, John told the people to prepare, for you were very near.
As Christmas grows closer day by day, help us to be ready to welcome you now.