Tuesday, November 29, 2005

u2 coming to New Zealand

I’m a fairly simple sort of being. I have good and bad days. And I love U2. And this week was the news that U2 are coming to New Zealand March 17. For St Patrick’s Day. How good is that? So it seemed appropriate to kick off Advent 2005 mixing together a bad week for me with some Bono lyrics and Bono thoughts.


This week has been a very dark week for me.

Last weekend, the open home, open year, was a big up, and after a person has a big up there’s often a down.

I really needed to take a week off. Instead I was caught into a tread wheel of activity; some pastoral issues, meetings on Tuesday and Thursday, a wedding on Saturday, preaching twice today. A busy week for an already tired Steve Taylor.

I’m not after sympathy. You’re week has probably been the same. Full of busyness and work. The Christmas rush. Are you starting to feel it yet?

All through my week I’ve stared at the start of Advent.
1st Sunday in Advent Steve. Today, Sunday 27 November
Four weeks for the church to start to prepare for Christmas, Steve.

Stared at Advent knowing that I have a choice.
To get caught in my big down, the despair of my week, or to hope.

Each year Advent and Christmas roll around. Each year I feel like I have the same choice. Whether personal or societal, to get caught in despair or to hope.

This year there’s been
A tsunami in Asia
Hurricane in New Orleans,
Earthquake in Pakistan
Suicide bombers in take your pick … Baghdad or Bali or London or Jerusalem or Syria.

Each year, each Advent and Christmas, all of us faced with the same choice. To despair or to hope.

U2 have a song called; Peace on earth. The song starts;
Heaven on Earth
We need it now
I’m sick of all of this
Hanging around

Sick of sorrow
I’m sick of the pain

They’re singing about this choice
Each year, to despair or to hope.

The choice is not new. Advent pre-Jesus, Advent 2000 years ago offered the same choice; despair or hope.

Listen, for instance, to the words of a wise old man called Simeon.
In Luke 2:25 we’re told he’s waiting “for the consolation of Israel.”

Simeon’s living in a land under Roman rule, living with high taxation and military government. His choice is despair or hope.

Take for instance an old woman called Anna. She’s a widow. She’s faced personal loss, the death of her husband, the hardship of being single in a culture with no welfare system. Her words are in Luke 2:38. We find her hoping for the “redemption of Jerusalem.”

When you’ve seen it all,
When you’re in the middle of a big down
When the Christmas rush stretches out in front of you
When you hear news of yet another disaster
Do you despair or do you hope?

Pete introduced us to this beautiful art piece. Madonna Del Parto, 1467.
Two angels are pulling back the curtain. Revealing hope of the world. Drum roll, Curtain raised, dada. The hope of the world is a pregnant woman.

Almost ridiculous. Who is this woman? Is she famous? What if she’s a bad mother? What will she do when she’s tired and exhausted and the little Lord Jesus won’t sleep cos he’s got wind?

I mean, lets get real. What would you really think if I got someone like Rebecca Tomlinson up here, and told you that she carried the hope of the world, a baby that would give me hope in dark weeks, and offer peace to war-torn Iraq.

What would you really think of a young teenage girl, say Lydia Stewart or Adele Dixon sharing next week that she’d seen an angel. But wait there’s more, the angel says she’s pregnant. And no boy was involved, honest, cos the Holy Spirit’s come.

Which takes us right back to that Advent choice again. Despair or hope.

As Bono, from U2, writes in a recent book, of going to a cathedral in Dublin. He’s just flown back from singing in Tokyo and he’s sitting there and it’s a Christmas Eve Service and tears start rolling down his face …. Because it really sank in: the Christmas story. The idea that … there’s .. a force of love and logic behind the universe … a creator who would choose to express such … power as a child born in “straw poverty.” It’s so brilliant. That this scale of creation, and the unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me …There must be an Incarnation. Love must be made flesh. (Quotes from Bono on Bono, Hodder and Stoughton, 2005, p. 126 and www.rollingstone.com/news/story).

Bono’s facing that choice again. And choosing to hope; To Believe in a Creator God who is a vulnerable baby, To Confess that we as humans need the love and logic of this Creator God, To Decide to plant hope this Advent.
This is our choice. To look at ourselves and our world and get depressed. Or to hope in Incarnation, that Creator Love can be flesh.
And three practical ways to plant hope this Advent.

I have a gift for you at the end of the service. An envelope. Inside that envelope are 4 cards, with art, Bible reading and an action. Take them hope and use them to pray and think and plant hope in your Christmas. Take an extra set and give them to a friend who needs hope this Advent.

Second, sign up with Pete and Joyce Majendie for the Christmas journey. Take 3 hours of your Christmas rush, be an usher in the Christmas Journey and plant hope in Cathedral Square this Christmas.

Thirdly, and this is sort of wierd. But plant a sunflower seed somewhere random, in a park or sneak it into someone else’s garden. Plant a flower of hope in an unexpected place this Advent. Just don’t get arrested.

It’s been a dark week for me. Every day I’ve faced the same choice. Despair or plant hope. That’s the Advent choice. I am going to invite us to sing. As we do that, I’m going to pass around trays with a sunflower seed. Take it as a reminder to plant hope in unexpected places.

Posted by steve at 02:58 PM

4 Comments

  1. I was hoping U2 wouldn’t go to NZ so you would come to the concert with me seeing Dan wont go :)

    Comment by phil — November 29, 2005 @ 4:31 pm

  2. Well Phil, many new zealanders are glad God does not answer your advent hopes.

    grinning, steve

    Comment by Steve — November 29, 2005 @ 4:35 pm

  3. U2 in NZ! Great, after years of waiting…If only I wasn’t moving to Europe at the beginning of March.

    Really, Bono! All the rumours said you guys were coming down in February…February! Not March!

    Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys it…NZ’s certainly waited long enough.

    Comment by Craig — November 29, 2005 @ 6:56 pm

  4. Lovely reflection. I’ll link it on the U2 Sermons blog this week.

    Comment by Beth — November 30, 2005 @ 11:02 am

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