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Advent Carols

Robinson College, Cambridge

25th November 2018

Today, like many of you, I received an epistle bearing glad tidings from the Prime Minister herself, promising me a ‘brighter future’.   It was well-timed, because the season of Advent is precisely the promise of a brighter future.  It is a promise rooted in biblical history.


The readings and carols today, have outlined the development of an international political arrangement which, by the time of Jesus, had been functioning perfectly well for decades.   Whilst the nation we read about had its own laws and traditions, it was really distant bureaucrats over at Europe’s political capital that made all the decisions that count.


Israel had once been a great nation, but now it had become a mere vassal state for the great city of Rome.  So, a lot of hope was invested in a figure who would lead his people out of this political arrangement, and into a brighter future.  He was called Messiah, because he would enable Israel to take back control  - to take back control of its laws, of its economy and of its borders.  And if Rome didn’t like it – they could ‘Go whistle’.  The Messiah, after all, would have God on his side.


But when this baby was born – he didn’t seem particularly interested in taking back control in the way that was expected of him.


Jesus defied expectation because far from rejecting foreign law, he told people to over-comply with it: if a soldier forces you to carry his pack for a mile, carry it 2!  If your superior slaps you in what is presumably the face, offer them the other cheek as well.  Over-comply with those foreign laws, in order to undermine them.


Jesus defied expectation economically because in a time of extreme austerity in Lower Galilee, he had become a walking food bank  - he could dish out excess quanitities of food to 5000 people at a time.


And of course, Jesus defied expectation when it came to border security not only because he was a refugee, an immigrant – who could walk on water!  Taking back control of borders, meant radically redefining what it is to be in and what it is to be out.


Jesus did not bring the brighter future anyone expected.  The future he initiated was not the brighter future we march into and take by force.  It is an alternative future that comes to us as a gift to be welcomed.