Ideas for sermon preparation on Matthew 11.2-11
See also PostScript - Comments, prayers, questions and discussion on the week's news.
- In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, 1995, Abacus, ISBN 978-0349106533 wrote: ‘Strong convictions are the secret of surviving deprivation. Your spirit can be full even when your stomach is empty. I always knew that some day I would once again feel the grass under my feet and walk in the sunshine as a free man. I am fundamentally an optimist. Part of being an optimist is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward’. John, in prison, seeks reassurance from Christ, and receives it in the news of all that is being done by him. Christians do not escape the great trials of the world – the difference is that we keep our heads pointed towards the Son, and our hearts marching forward.
- In the legend of Papa Panov, Jesus tells an old man, in a dream, that he will visit him on Christmas Day. All day Papa Panov watches for Jesus. While he does so, he shares his meal with a street sweeper, gives a young mother some warm shoes for her baby, offers hospitality to passers-by. At the end of the day, saddened and disappointed by Jesus’ non-appearance, Papa Panov falls asleep again, only to hear in his dreams that Jesus did indeed visit him, for he was present in all those whom Papa Panov helped. Who are the people in whom we will meet Jesus today?
- John, in prison, has been stripped of all that human life can offer. He has nothing left to hold onto, nothing left to give. He reaches out desperately to Jesus, seeking validation for his life’s efforts. He is full of doubt and nearing despair. Why doesn’t Jesus answer him clearly? It would be so easy simply to say: ‘Yes. I am the one.’ But Jesus knows that the most profound answers come from within, and he urges John to look at the evidence with his own eyes. He knows John will understand as he is familiar with the Scriptures. John must look within his own heart for the answer – so must we.
- Advent is traditionally a time of austerity within the Church – some churches don’t have flowers during this season, and wait until Christmas Eve to put up a Christmas tree. Advent is also a time of reflection, of looking into our hearts and acknowledging our times of doubt and despair. And, just as Isaiah draws a picture of the desert rejoicing and blossoming, so from our times of darkness can come the hope of a new way of life, one that has long been promised to us and that is fulfilled in the Messiah. He may not arrive in the way that we expect, but we trust in his promise.
You may also find this week's All-age conversation useful.
You could finish your sermon with a call to action for everyone this week - see the Live your faith idea.
KEY: icon indicates ways to connect faith with everyday life