Sometimes the sermons are good, sometimes they are for our own good, but sometimes they are very helpful and supportive.
I had to take an Advent group because our local vicar was busy involved in some other matter. After the group, I sent her this email.
Her response to this was a wonderful sermon to answer all my questions.
"A few of us gathered together to look at the Advent 3 Study. We read from Isaiah 61 1-11. Assuming from what we had learnt before this was Isaiah 3 and with my vast knowledge from Wikipedia - one of the only 2 anointed prophets. From what we had learnt before this seemed a strange idea of a group of people being the anointed one, but still this session was about questions not answers. We decided that this was another covenant with the promise of a second garden of Eden if the peopled followed the word of the Lord then ... The theme was incarnation for all. We really struggled to see how the passage and these reading fitted together, especially with Tony’s definition of “God in another form”. Even with the notes help of God coming to earth in human flesh we didn't really see this in the passage. Perhaps we just missed the point. We did think the anthem Spirit of the Lord did express some of this passage better. Confusion reigned.
Thessalonians 5 didn't help us much more. We saw some instructions. We talked about happiness and joy which didn't seem abound on the faces on the congregation very often and perhaps why. We talked about the types of sermons we listened to and the formal structure of the church and perhaps how it really didn’t help matters.
By the time we reached John 1 we were a little confused about John saying that the Messiah was already standing out there in the crowd. We talked about baptism and the idea of full immersion rather than throwing a little water on the forehead. We decided that taking over the local diving pool and after full immersion of the subjects having a pool party to celebrate might have a bit more meaning to the congregation - making a happy fun memorable day rather than a solemn church occasion. We had really lost the point of incarnation around about here and we really struggled with the part “who the other prophet was”. The small p didn't help – so it wasn’t Moses.
A serious lack of old testament knowledge didn’t help us. Perhaps more is needed in sermons during the year rather than just following the lectionary from year to year without learning something new (the basics). Learning some of the basics here really would help.
We were not sure why in answer to the first question “who are you?” The answer was who he was not??? Why would he say he wasn't the Messiah - was this just Johns peculiar way of writing?? We talked why John 1 was used at Christmas when this is a most difficult piece of text and most of the congregation are one time visitors. No wonder they don't come again!! This also raised questions why in last week’s sermon for the prophets we looked at John the Baptist who said he wasn't he wasn't one.
Confusion set in.
Why was it so important to name the place where John was? We look forward to this week’s sermon on John the Baptist not as a prophet?"
Each point was well addressed aiding not just my understanding and those of the rest of the group but also answering questions that may have not been tackled before about Christmas. Our understanding improved and now I can look on this Christmas with much better understanding.