The Advent Collective – 11 December 2020

A daily reflection drawing from Advent Bible passages – to help us grow as we live out our faith in the everyday moments of life.

Welcome to day 12 of the Advent Collective podcast.

In my twenties I studied Law. I loved the law itself but also the pursuit of justice. I am sure if you asked those that know me well, especially my husband, they would tell you how passionate I can be when faced with something I perceive to be unjust!

A little uncomfortably for me, I can see the same character trait in my youngest son, Thomas. At the moment, his favourite phrase is ‘no nono not fair!’. He regularly shouts this at me, for instance, when I might suggest he tries to eat a vegetable or, even worse, wear a coat when it is very cold outside! As an adult sometimes I am weary and it is easier for me not address things that are unjust. However, Thomas, aged two and a half, is not burdened by the need to keep a family going in a global pandemic and he never fails to take the opportunity to address the injustice in his world!

Today we find ourselves considering the words of the prophet, Ezekiel. We hear that it was always God’s plan to send Jesus, the one perfect shepherd, to save us. In verse 16 we are told that he ‘will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak… [he] will shepherd the flock with justice’. In verse 26, we are told ‘[he] will make a covenant of peace with them’. The word ‘peace’ here means more than no conflict but a complete contentment, fulfilment and security. Even more than my son Thomas, Jesus, the perfect shepherd, promised by God, is not afraid, or, like me sometimes too weary, to address the injustice in our world.

The image here of Jesus as a shepherd is a powerful one. A shepherd’s whole life revolves around caring for the wellbeing of their flock, protecting them, day and night and making sure they have the best land to graze on. They deal with their flock fairly and they go after sheep who are lost. This is what God promises us in Jesus. He has come to bring justice to our world,to rescue us and bring us complete security, day and night.

The pandemic has highlighted lots in our world that is unjust. We have all seen the headlines about the number of children living in poverty and how, since March, this has greatly increased. This year everyone has a personal story of how the pandemic has impacted them.  My grandmother died over the summer. Because of Covid restrictions we weren’t able to grieve together as a family, or celebrate her life in the way we would have wanted to. It is ok, in this season of waiting to stop, pause and acknowledge these things.

As we look back on what has been a challenging year for us all, maybe today we need to hear again God’s promise to us that in Jesus, he sent us the perfect shepherd to rescue us, who came to bring us, his flock, ‘showers of blessing’.

During advent we are reminded we live in the ‘now and not yet’. Jesus was born, died and was resurrected but as we wait for the second coming we do see breakthroughs in our world. The scientists managing to discover a vaccine in less than a year being a great example of this!

I have found it helpful over the last few months to make sure I stop and reflect, and give thanks for the things I have seen God do in my life, in the everyday, whether big or small.

Can you think of times in your life this year when you have seen God’s kingdom breakthrough in the everyday, where you have felt the ‘showers of blessing’ promised to us in this passage?

As we look to next year, what does this passage mean for us? How do we live in the ‘now and not yet’, trusting in the promise that Jesus came to earth to rescue us? We are called to follow him. Who are our flock? Who are we called to serve?

In Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 11, we are told ‘He tends the flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart’.

This Advent, who is it that God has put on your heart?

Maybe there is a neighbour or a friend we know is struggling, who perhaps we could bless with a box of mince pies and an offer of prayer? Maybe we feel convicted about the injustice we see in our nation and we need to help, for instance by donating to the foodbank this Christmas or considering how, in the new year, we could help bless the poor in our city.

For me this Advent, I know that God has placed my two sons, James and Thomas, on my heart. If it weren’t for Covid, I could rely on the Christmas gatherings at church and the Kids’ team to help my children journey through Advent. However, this year it is up to me and Steve, my husband, to share with them the message of hope, that Jesus came to earth to set them free.

Long ago, the shepherds who visited Jesus in Bethlehem heard God’s call on their life and changed direction to visit him. Maybe for some of us as we reflect we know God is taking us in a completely new direction, that there is a new call on our life, a new flock, and we need to take time this Advent to sit and listen to God, to seek him and to trust in his promises for the new year.

Let’s pray.

Lord God, Thank you that you sent in Jesus, the perfect shepherd, to earth for us. Like the prophets long ago, we long to see change in our world. We pray this Advent that you would come and show us who we are called to serve. Amen.