Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Reminder of Our Recent Advent & Christmas

Psalm 147 vv 12-20

I couldn’t resist using the words of today’s psalm in our worship because they’re such a vivid reminder of the Advent and Christmas that we’ve just enjoyed. Although perhaps the word ‘enjoyed’ isn’t quite the right one!

At least in such an affluent city as Wakefield, Christmas is a time of blessing for children and young people. There are few households where parents can’t afford to save up for some nice Christmas presents, or where families don’t eat the finest food that they will share together all year long. But these are hard times, and our toy service and some of our Christmas collections remembered those for whom Christmas is a struggle.

However, as well as those warm memories of Christmas cheer, the psalm calls to mind our recent run of rather cheerless icy weather. Even in Palestine people know about snow covering the ground like a blanket of wool and frost covering everything like the layer of thick white ashes from a fire. Yet the Psalmist reminds us, too, that winter doesn’t last forever. Warm winds will blow again and the frozen streams will begin to flow.

Praising God for the gift of good food, for the beauty of cold weather and for the welcome spring thaw raises an awkward question. Why should we, in particular, gather here to praise God for these things when people of other faiths and non-believers enjoy them too? Why should we - above all the other people in Wakefield - be especially thankful? Why are they signs of God’s love for us?

Well, of course, they’re not. Jesus himself reminded us that rain and snow falls, and the sun shines, on good and bad alike. The weather, or ample harvests, are not a sign of God’s favour - or displeasure for that matter - to any one group of people.

The Psalmist doesn’t try to duck this issue. Instead he reminds us that - even if all the other good and bad things of life are shared with everyone - God’s people do have one very special gift to be thankful for. He has not given his Law to any other nation! In other words, they don’t have the same insights into God’s nature and loving kindness, nor the same assurance of his constant concern for them.

Our Gospel reading will declare that Christians have an even better gift than the Law of Moses. We have God’s living Word, who has shown us what God is like and revealed the full extent of God’s kindness and truth. That’s why we should shout praises to the Lord!

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