Although she doesn’t know it yet, Julia recently gave me Adele 30 (the latest album by Adele Adkins, one of the world’s best-selling music artists, with sales of over 120 million records) as either a late birthday present, or early Christmas present. She knows that I like Adele’s music (I have all her previous albums). I haven’t had time to listen to it properly yet – it is said to tell a story of a recent chapter in Adele’s life (which is why she wants us to listen to the various songs in the order they appear on the album and not on ‘shuffle’). Like her other albums Adele’s songs grow on you the more you listen to them and you find deeper meaning in the process of listening and thinking about the words.
There is a line in the song Hello from Adele’s previous album which contains the line ‘Hello … can you hear me?’ The song is about a long distance phone call between Adele and someone she was obviously once in love with but hasn’t been in contact with for a long time. Almost on a whim she phones to see if any spark remains between them that can possibly be rekindled after all the years apart. Even as she makes the call she is not sure that any meaningful contact has been made, or that the person on the other end of the line is hearing what she is trying to say.
‘What has this to do with Advent or God or anything important at all?’ I hear you saying. Well, quite a lot actually. Traditionally, the theme of the Second Sunday in Advent is The God Who Speaks. The Writer to the Hebrews tells us that ‘In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son’ (Hebrews 1:1,2). The Writer suggests here that rather than God being up there, out there, distant from us, deliberately incommunicado, he has repeatedly attempted to communicate with us many times and in many ways, primarily through a whole series of prophetic figures who sought to share God’s ‘now word’ with generation after generation. Regrettably, by and large, God’s word through these prophetic voices was ignored, so in the end God sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, into our world to make his message to us loud and clear. And what is that message? What is it that God wants us to hear? Well, essentially it is this: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him’ (John 3:16,17). This, however, is not to be interpreted simply in a personal way but in a missional way. The Apostle Paul reminds us, that God not only ‘reconciled us to himself through Christ’ but also entrusted us with the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:18) in which we too are to work to see our fellow human being reconciled to God and to one another.
Sadly, as Jesus himself foretold in the Parable of the Evil Farmers (Matthew 21:33-46), not only did the majority of people reject what God has to say through his prophets, but rejected what God has to say through his Son! The evil farmers ‘took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him’ (Matthew 21:39). Jesus came with a message of love … and we nailed him to a cross! But … just as the tomb could not hold him so his death could not silence him. Matthew’s Gospel begins with the story of the birth of the Christ-child – one whose given names were ‘Emmanuel – God with us, and Jesus – because he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21,23), but concludes with the Risen Jesus appearing to his followers and telling them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:18-20).
What is more God is still speaking to us today! Through the Bible, through anointed preaching and the testimony of Christians, by the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, in a variety of situations and circumstances … and in countless other ways … but supremely in the Person of his Son Jesus. But are we listening? In Jesus, God has taken the initiative. God is ‘on the line’ so to speak. And what is he saying? How does God initiate the ‘conversation’? Probably just like Adele: ‘Hello! Can you hear me?’ Can we?
He came to you, for in His gentle voice
He’d much that He would say …
Your ears were turned to earth’s discordant note
And so … He went away.
He came, and in His hand He had a task
That He would have you do.
But you were occupied with other things
And so you missed that too.
He would have touched you, and His touch could thrill
And give you quickening power,
But earthly things enveloped, and you could
Not feel Him in that hour.