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Sermon Preached at Evensong on the Second Sunday before Advent
By Victoria Johnson, Canon Precentor
Readings: Psalm 89:20-40, 1 Kings 1:15-40, Revelation 1:4-18
Beginnings and Endings…
Beginnings and Endings are important. A strong beginning signifies a new start. A good ending, brings a chapter to a close drawing a curtain on the past. We like our beginnings and our endings, our fresh starts, our certainty, our neat completions, our clean lines and our sharp decisive finishes. From the profound: birth, death; to the less profound: a decent novel, a good film, an opening motif or perfect cadence, how we begin and end each day.
This past year, we have all been deprived of our beginnings and endings, it feels like we have all been living in an indistinguishable and broken middle. There have been no clean finishes or fresh starts, everything is somehow wrestling with time itself and grappling for certitude and this sense of ambiguity in our lives has brought with it anxiety and fear. We all sense it, we all see it, in our homes, our workplaces, our society, our world.
Many have been deprived of saying a final goodbye to a loved one, many have lost the chance to celebrate a new life or a new start. We have all experienced this loss and ambiguity to a greater or lesser extent, we are all somewhere in the middle looking for a conclusion, for an answer. In the past week, we have seen messy endings in politics, as people cling to power or try to regain it, and we have seen the despair of doctors and nurses who feel as if their shift will never come to an end.
News of a positive vaccine trial gives us hope, but will it come soon enough to mean that we can do this, or that… ‘When will things get back to normal?’, ‘When we can we begin again?’, we might shout into the sky.
Into this messy, and imperfect reality Christ speaks to us from beyond time, where beginnings and endings are subsumed into one equal eternity. We hear his voice: Do not be afraid, he says, I am the first and the last and the living one. I was dead and see I am alive for ever. So, let me be your hope, let me hold together the broken middle, let me be your beginning and your end each and every day.
In Christ, our human beginnings and endings are subverted and unexpected – in him there are no easy starts or neat finishes but there is a promise that he will be with us through every moment, God with us forever, in all things, through all things, both waking and sleeping.
For the Church, all this comes to life in the season of Advent, the beginning of the church’s year, when the cradle of new life is foreshadowed with end times, and final judgement echoes the birth of baby in Bethlehem. Beginnings and endings collide into one and the line between them is as thin as the thread between heaven and earth.
Whether we measure our time in days or millennia, we wait with patience and hope in the broken and awkward middle; we sit with the unresolved chords of our lives knowing that all will be one day resolved but not perhaps as we expect. Between our waking and our sleeping each day, Christ alone is the one in whom all our beginnings and endings make sense, and he says to us, Do not be afraid. We somehow hold together the tensions of this present time in his strength.
We are always being invited to begin our encounter with Christ again and again, our Alpha and Omega. We are invited by God in Christ, to seek his presence at every opportunity until all fear is taken away, until we are no longer defined by how we start or how we finish, but only by Christ in our midst, before whom we will stand at the final perfect ‘Amen’ which rings out from above, and lasts for all eternity.
Let us pray
Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity: in the habitations of thy majesty and glory, world without end. Amen.
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