“My prayer for you is that your love may overflow more and more, the more you know and understand”

(Philippians chapter 1 verse 9, paraphrase)

What or who inspires you? Only you can answer that for yourself. As for me, I would include Jesus who revealed God’s love by using the example of patience – by coming in person to a particular time and place; that way he shares our limitations of time and space too. I would also include the Bible which has spoken to believers in many translations over thousands of years. I appreciate that not everyone agrees with that but, as C. S. Lewis put it, you “can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it”.

One Christian tradition keeps the second Sunday of Advent as Bible Sunday. The thought is that while waiting for the promised Messiah, the faithful at least had Scripture to help them hear about God and his promises in the meantime. Before that first Christmas the Old Testament (as Christians refer to it) told the story of God’s people as well as including the words of prophets who looked forward to God sending his chosen one who would save his people. Post-Christmas and Post-Easter, Christians also look forward to when that same person, Jesus Christ the Son of God, will be sent from heaven again. This time we shall know who it is.

The first arrival was marked by the discoveries of various people of Jesus’ true identity. In fact, I would say that one of the major themes of the gospels in the New Testament concerns the question “Who is Jesus?”. It is in answer to that question that we are told about his teaching, his miracles and the controversies with the religious and political leaders at the time. Two of the gospels, according to St Matthew and St Luke, tell us about the birth of Jesus. There different people gradually find out about who Jesus is – shepherds in Luke, for example, Herod’s court in Matthew. The gospels vary in their precise selection of events and parables to tell us, but for all four of them, the ultimate answer to who Jesus is lies in his death and resurrection.

But the Bible is not a collection of stories to tell: it is an invitation to meet God-in-Jesus who can change our lives. The point of the Bible is not to be an end in itself but to be a signpost, if you like, that points to Jesus. As we read and learn we may understand better who Jesus is and what he calls us to be and to do. The point is to understand better in order to love better (hence the quote from Paul above).

A prayer from “Common Worship”

Merciful God, teach us to be faithful in change and uncertainty, that trusting in your word and obeying your will, we may enter the unfailing joy of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Additional Collect for Bible Sunday)