Artwork: Lamb of God mosaic in presbytery of Basilica of San Vitale (built A.D. 547) Ravenna, Italy.
Friends, in these anxious days as we prepare to enter into another lockdown, what is it that can calm our fears and revive our spirits?
In the words of today’s Psalm: Restore us again, O God of our salvation […] Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation (Psalm 85).
In our Gospel story this morning (John 1:35-45), we see this longing fulfilled.
Listen to what Andrew tells us, with great excitement: “We have found the Messiah (which means Christ).” And Philip relates with equal joy, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote.”
In this Jesus, these first century Judeans found the fulfilment of their deepest yearning: the long-awaited King of Israel and ruler of the nations, the one foretold in our first reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:5-8).
Jesus is the true and perfect King who will come to set this world right – and Lord knows this is a world that desperately needs to be set right. And friends, the same is true for our hearts, our lives, and our relationships – they must be set right. That’s what Jeremiah means by the word righteousness – that the world and our hearts would be set right.
And that is what happens when we truly encounter the Lord Jesus and open ourselves to Him. We find what we have always been looking for. So often we look in the wrong places and the results of that can be harmful. But in hindsight we can see that in God’s providence, even our wayward detours have led us to Him.
People are led to Jesus for different reasons and His good news is special to people in different ways. In our Gospel today:
All of these figures speak to us about Jesus here this morning.
But Our Lord Himself speaks just three times – and He speaks to all of us. He speaks these words:
First, What are you seeking? We don’t always know what we’re seeking, what we’re really after. Why have I come to church this morning? Why am I watching this livestream? What am I looking for? Maybe you’re not quite sure. Our answers may sound weak and poor. Well, you’re in good company! Listen to the reply of the disciples in today’s Gospel: “Where are you staying?” It sounds like they had no idea what to answer to the question of what they were seeking. But in their journey with Jesus, in their time spent with Him, they will get clarity. He promises, “Seek and you shall find.” And friends, He asks you a personal question today: “What do you seek? What is going on in your heart? What are you after? What are you looking for?”
Second, Come and see. As it turns out, their answer to the first question is not so bad after all – in fact, it’s perfect: they simply want know how they can be with Jesus. They have found in Jesus something so attractive and irresistible that they just want to be with Him. And so Jesus says, Come and See. That simple invitation took those disciples on a three-year journey with Jesus that changed them forever. And just so, your journey with Jesus will transform you in ways you could never ask for or imagine.
Finally, Jesus says, Follow me. This means something more, something deeper, than “come and see.” Some of us may be at the “come and see” stage, checking it all out. But “follow me,” means to take the next step, to walk in His footsteps, to imitate and learn of Him. Here at St. James we want to be a church where people can come and see – a place where seekers can inquire and ask questions; and we want to be a place where we can all learn to follow Jesus.
Do you see the logical progression in these three phrases? First, Jesus says, “What are you seeking?” We may not exactly know, but we have a deep yearning inside. Second, Jesus says, “Come and see.” And then, as we stay with Him, we find what we’ve been seeking, and we are asked to commit, as He says to us, “Follow me.”
Friends, as plainly as our Lord spoke those words to Andrew and Philip, He speaks them to you and me today. Jesus invites you to come and see and to follow Him and to find what you long for here at St. James during this Advent season and this upcoming church year.
Next Sunday is our New Year’s Day in the church calendar; and I want to say something just briefly about the church calendar and why we observe it. We do not keep the rhythms of the church calendar out of mere traditionalism – because it’s what Anglicans have always done and it’s good because it’s old fashioned. That’s not why do it. Rather, we mark time in a Christian way to honour Jesus, who is the Lord of the Ages, the Ancient of Days, whose Advent has begun a new age in human history. Jesus also desires to begin a new stage in your life and in our common life as a church.
So here are some suggested New Year’s resolutions for you: First, Jesus asks you to be honest, both with Him and yourself. "What are you seeking?" Open your heart to Him in prayer. Cast your burdens upon Him. Tell him honestly and perhaps awkwardly what you long for. Next, He invites you to "come and see." We come to church to see, to behold, to embrace the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world; to learn from our Rabbi who teaches us how to live; to be assured of our salvation in our Messiah, Redeemer and Lord; to grow up in the Righteous Branch into whom we are grafted to bring forth the fruit of good works.
And finally Jesus commissions us: "Follow me."
So friends, let us answer our Master’s call this Advent, to follow Him with hope, to come and see what good things are prepared for those who seek the Lord.