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'Go through, go through the gates' - Pastor's Pen for 18th December

photo © Tim Hill

The weekend before this one I completed the Westcoaster half marathon at Bethell's Beach (Te Henga). While there was no confusion about the route, the race was an unholy combination of steep hills, sand dunes, humid December temperatures, and slippery clay tracks underfoot in an almost Winter condition. That's three times on that event and I think I'm done now. Some people are slow learners. Something different this time next year.

There's something great about a well paved and marked path where the going is easy and the view is expansive. You can see where you're going and where you've been. One of the regular Advent readings in the lectionary says;

Go through, go through the gates,

prepare the way for the people;

build up, build up the highway,

clear it of stones,

lift up an ensign over the peoples.

The Lord has proclaimed

to the end of the earth:

Say to daughter Zion,

‘See, your salvation comes; (Isaiah 62: 10-11)

Isaiah is very clear that God makes a way for Israel, that their time of exile and suffering will end, and ultimately God will save His people. Messiah will come. There will be a peaceable kingdom that is of a whole different order to the expected stuff ups, power games and rule by violence and fear that occur when human beings are in charge. God's plan wins in the end.

The church is very clear that ultimately, Isaiah is talking about Jesus Messiah, God's means of salvation. He is the one, the suffering servant, Emmanuel, God with us.

This Christmas I bring a particular thought for those of you for whom this season seems to be shaping as one of disappointment, grief, uncertainty, even chaos. Some of us are recently bereaved, are grappling with cancer diagnoses, facing terminal illness. You may be stretching your budget to cope with Christmas, or have an uncertain immigration status. You may be coping with estrangement from once close family, or have longed for plans disrupted by Covid-19. There will be other things. Life is "not all beer and skittles" as the saying goes.

So you read the Advent scripture of hope and longing, order and clear direction, but you don't see it in your own life. You are treading a slippery, uncertain path and the end is not in sight. The gate is not obvious. Don't give up hope. Reach out to a friend or prayer partner, a helping hand. That's the point of Christian community, we are there for one another. Kia Kaha, peace be with you.

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