A Cunning Plan
Words for Second Sunday of Advent – 6 December 2020
A cyber sermon from the Vicarage
Text: The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: (Mark 1.1-2)
God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers.
Followers of the TV series Blackadder will know that, regardless of which era of English history Edmund Blackadder finds himself in his faithful serf/manservant/batman Baldrick comes up with a Cunning Plan which, if ever implemented, leads to epic failure and a further pickle from which Blackadder has to extract himself.
Baldrick is the acted out version of Robert Burns’;
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft a-gley.
Sometimes, standing in Advent looking forward as God’s grand plan of redemption for a wilful and fallen creation begins to unfold in front of us, I wonder if the Holy Trinity had a touch of the Baldrick about them?
Mark begins his breakneck paced story of the Good News of God’s love with the confident declaration that this is how it was all meant to happen. Going directly to the promise for salvation made in Isaiah, Mark says ‘as it is written’ with all the certainty of Lieutenant Colonel Hannibal Smith of the A-Team proclaiming ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’
Plan? What plan?
What plan would involve putting the fate of the whole world in the hands of a newly engaged young couple and their baby on the run from a tyrant… twice?
What plan would see that child growing to have no place to lay his head?
What plan would see such self-serving from a people to whom God came as a servant?
What plan would see a healer and miracle worker rejected by his own people
What plan would see God’s very self pain-wracked and bleeding to death on a cross?
This is the kind of plan Baldrick would hatch! Which person in their right mind would choose a life marked by persecution and spite, rejection and hatred from humble beginning to bloody end? Surely this ‘plan’ would be rejected by any thinking right minded human being let alone the Lord God Almighty Creator of heaven and earth?
This is sheer madness!
Yet it is also a mark of the reckless love of a faithful Creator towards a faithless and lost Creation. To redeem the darkest parts of our selves God chooses to walk in the midst of our death and despair and in a baby’s cry
Archbishop Rowan Williams describes the pain and cost of this plan in the poem Advent Calendar;
© Rowan Williams
He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.
God’s ‘cunning plan’, foretold long ago by the prophet Isaiah, must come shrouded by darkness, despair, and disaster. How else can an answer be found for the mess of our lives unless God comes alongside us and lifts us out of the mire we have made for ourselves?
We cannot lift ourselves – heaven knows we have tried in so many ways and failed so frequently.
God cannot reach down to us – heaven knows that that would only solidify the gap between creature and Creator.
There have been many dark times in the history of the human race and Advent 2020 finds us once again in a place of pain and distress and in need of a Redeemer with a plan to restore beauty to the world.
Love can, and does ‘come down at Christmas’ with no other plan than living alongside us in our mess and doing it in such a way that disease is banished, darkness is vanquished by the dawn and hope is born.
Another holy poet, RS Thomas, in ‘The Coming’ speaks deeply of the determination and intense love of God towards us and God’s desire to turn the wasted wreck of all our plans and endeavours into a bright flame of love.
Blessed are we when we can see past the darkness of a dank stable and the death of the cross to the bright dawn of Easter. When we do then we will indeed realise that all that the prophet Isaiah said has come to pass and
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. (Isaiah 40.4-5)
[This blog ‘A Cunning Plan’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]
 If you would like to view a compilation of assorted ‘cunning plans’ by Baldrick visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACnqI1l4I9s&list=RDACnqI1l4I9s&index=1