November is sometimes the month of the Church’s New Year, as Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day – this year is November 28. It’s a moment that Dr Lindsey Hall says always brings joy.
Just recently a very old, beloved and well respected priest received great honor and asked to perform a very important aspect of worship in meaningful service. While he was doing this, he was surrounded by people praying, and it was an incredibly special time. He felt that God was speaking to him and the word given to him was that his prayers were answered. He was overwhelmed by this and wondered if it could be true. There was one thing in particular that he had prayed for for years. He believed that God had heard his prayer, but was reconciled with the idea that God was giving him a different answer than he really wanted. He and his wife had been hoping for a child for years, but while all of their friends had started families, it never happened to them, and he didn’t believe it would happen now. But it was the word that he heard God say to him: your wife will have a child.
Well, that’s not quite true; it wasn’t just recently, it was 2000 years ago. It is with this story that the evangelist Luke begins his account of the Good News of Jesus. He talks about Zechariah and Elizabeth, faithful believers who experience a long-awaited miracle. But that’s just the intro! The unfolding story includes many other surprising acts of God with the birth of Jesus to a young unmarried woman. A birth celebrated by shepherds and angels. And it’s a story that gets better and better! Luke is a gospel of joy! From the angel who announces the good news of great joy to everyone in chapter 2, to the joy of finding the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son in chapter 15 to the two disciples who, after having met Jesus on the road to Emmaus returns to Jerusalem with great joy in chapter 24, joy abounds in this gospel.
From the start of Advent, the lectionary will give us passages from Luke most Sunday mornings of the following year. Like each of the four Gospels, Luke has his own feel and his own way of sharing the story of Jesus. Luke’s joyful sharing seeks to capture how lives were changed by Jesus, how strangers were included, the extravagance of God’s love shown in Christ, and how with Jesus, riches well. beyond the money can be received. These are not unique events that happened long ago, but are an invitation to each of us to receive the good news of Jesus and all that it means. As you hear passages from Luke over the next year, remember Zechariah, once again surprised by God, and listen to the angels proclaiming good news of great joy to everyone.
Dr Lindsey Hall
Facilitator of diocesan formation for the mission