Did you know 2016 was pre-named ‘The Year of Mercy’? I’m not sure who bestowed this title or what it inspired or even how we indeed review it. But a cursory glance at the news – local, nation or international you could easily conclude that nothing much has changed. The world is still tired and frayed at the edges. Good news still travels much slower than a sensational news headline. And peace for so much of the earth is still hard to come by. Yet we find ways of celebrating the good – in the apology we would rather not give, in the growth of a child, in the gathering of generations, in the sharing of brotherhood or sisterhood, in the standing up for someone else, in the unexpected praise or in the gift long awaited. Perhaps this is why I like advent so much:I find myself at the beginning again. I begin slugglishly to ask “So why do I do what do? What am I about again? Where is God in all of this?”
It’s an opportunity to ask myself some larger-scale questions, those big picture kinds of questions:
What has mercy looked like in my life this year? What mercies has God shown toward me? Have I recognized the mercy of God or have I experienced what could feel like the absence of mercy? How about asking the stark: To whom have I shown mercy lately?
All this makes me slightly dis-orientated. Maybe that’s a good place to start. Maybe that’s where re-orientation has it’s origins.
It reminds me of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptizer, who was made mute for his disbelief that his aged wife would have a son. For the entire pregnancy term he could not speak. I like to think the silence was a gift. Amid the frustration of not being able to communicate or function as he normally would have done Zechariah was forced to stop. There must have been plenty of time to think- hours, weeks, and months even. There must have been plenty of time consider what God was up to. No wonder, when the child was born, Zechariah’s tongue was not full of scorn or derision but full of praise for God, he said:
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he came and set his people free.
He set the power of salvation in the center of our lives,
and in the very house of David his servant,
Just as he promised long ago
through the preaching of his holy prophets:
Deliverance from our enemies
and every hateful hand;
Mercy to our fathers,
as he remembers to do what he said he’d do,
What he swore to our father Abraham—
a clean rescue from the enemy camp,
So we can worship him without a care in the world,
made holy before him as long as we live.
And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,”
will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,
Present the offer of salvation to his people,
the forgiveness of their sins.
Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace.
Luke chapter 1:68-79 from The Message translation.
Below is my collect prayer of response:
Lord of Mercy –
Setting the power of salvation in the centre of our lives
Help us to shut the hell up and show a bit of reverence
So that we may see hope beyond our own
And let loose, living in worship of you