Today is Advent Sunday: we lit the first Advent candle, and we read from Isaiah 2, starting again at the first page of the Lectionary. And this is some of what Michael Paterson said to the St Margaret’s congregation:
At one level it’s all about getting ready for Christmas, and that’s right. But it’s also the day the Church presses the restart button and says: Let’s make a new beginning.
Every Advent, God poses the question to people like you and me who have been coming to church all our lives, and have been through the Advent and Christmas cycle so many times:
And the question is this: As the church presses reset, and begins all over again, are we up for religion? Or are we up for grace?
Religion is about the basics: keeping the commandments; honouring God and the Sabbath; loving our neighbour as ourselves. Religion is about the minimal entrance requirements for heaven. But the life of grace is a quite different affair.
Grace is about going beyond tinkering with religion, and saying to God: “I vote for you. I sign up to your deal. I back you 100%.”
Grace is about saying: “The time for dabbling in dieting and getting fit are over. The time for playing games and messing about with religion is over. I am in it for real, Lord.”
Grace is about turning our lives completely over to God, and praying for God to finish what he has started in us, to bring it to completion and to change us from glory into glory.
And all it takes is one simple YES to turn a lifetime of religion into an eternity of grace.
Let’s pray for the grace this Advent to start out all over again, and to set our goal on nothing as tame as religion when transformation is on offer. Amen.
Michael’s homily can be read in full at this link.