Looking forwards

Isaiah 11:1-10
Matthew 3:1-6

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,” said the Decca Recording Co. in 1962 as they rejected the Beatles.

In 1943 the chairman of IBM announced that, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

On the same theme, in 1981 Bill Gates said that, “640K ought to be enough for anybody.”

The physicist Lord Kelvin, after whom the temperature scale is named, was president of the Royal Society in 1895, and he declared that, “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”

Predicting the future is a fool’s venture, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look forwards to the future, with hope and with anticipation.

What are you looking forward to? What are you hoping for?

I’m sure that your answer depends very much on who you are, what kind of life you have, and what’s going on around you.

Right now and here, I suspect that many of us are looking forward to Christmas and the different kinds of happy things that it means; while a smaller number of us will be dreading it, but perhaps afraid to say so. Younger people may look forward to their presents. Older folk may be more interested in things like spending time with family or being able to take time off work. But imagine you are in India, where the floods are so bad just now. Or imagine you’re a Christian in Syria facing a life as a refugee. Or imagine you’re a Palestinian whose family have lived peacefully for many generations on a farm, which has been annexed by Israel. What we look forward to depends completely on who and where are!

If you’re a regular here, hang onto the idea of looking forwards when we have our meeting later.

Today, of course, we think of Max, and all that he has to look forward to, and all that Carys and Jason have to look forward to with him.

Max first visited church 51 weeks ago, and was the youngest Jesus ever in our nativity play. These weeks before Christmas, our time of looking forwards to Christmas, we call Advent, as we look forward to celebrating the birth of baby Jesus.

The reading that we heard from Isaiah painted a bit of a picture about what sort of person this Jesus that everyone was waiting for was going.

First, he’s going to be a chip off the old block. I wonder how many of you have noticed expressions or moods in Max, that you’ve seen in Jason and Carys, or their families? Isaiah was saying much the same thing about Jesus. David was the best king Israel had known, and Jesus will be his descendant. A chip off the old block.

Second, he’s going to be a good judge. I wonder if you’ve noticed how Max makes his choices? What does he like? What does he try hard to avoid? How does he chose things? Isaiah was looking forward to Jesus being a good king and a fair judge. In those days, the person who made the rules was also the one who made sure they were kept. It’s only with the growth of democracy that we’ve come to think that isn’t how things should be. Isaiah was looking forward to Jesus being wise and fair. How we can we make sure that Max can look forward to being as wise and as fair as he can, and live in a world where everyone else is as wise and as fair as they can be?

Third, Isaiah was looking forward, more than anything, to peace. I’m quite sure there have been, and there will still be to come, many times when you long for a bit of peace from Max. Isaiah wanted Jesus to usher in a world in which dangerous creatures would not hurt innocent children; where there would not be any hurt or destroying; where all this would spread out and influence the whole world.

We look forward to so much with and for Max, just as in this season of Advent Isaiah helps us understand what we can look forward to in Jesus, who comes among us at Christmas.

So did Isaiah get what he wanted for Christmas? Yes and no! He died without seeing his hopes fulfilled, but his extraordinary word paintings were preserved, and when the followers of Jesus took a fresh look at them, they saw how much was reflected in the leader they had discovered. So, in another sense, Isaiah might not have got what he wanted for Christmas for himself, but he got what he hoped for the world.

However, Jesus was no Christmas present: he was born a baby, and angels, shepherds, and wise men came to greet him; he was compassionate and understanding of poor and oppressed people; but he was fierce and condemning of powerful and self-important people.
In Advent we look forward to celebrating Jesus coming at Christmas. It’s lovely to celebrate the story of the first Christmas, and a wonderful time for the child in each of us. I’m sure Max will enjoy more this year than last! May we all look forward to Christmas and all it means to cheer our spirits. As we look forward to Christmas, remember that Christmas is the beginning of a story, a story which goes on until Easter. The baby grew up to be the Son of God, who died on a cross and rose again. In him we place our hopes for a better world for Max, for everyone, a place of peace, justice, and enough for everyone and everything on this planet. May it be so.

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