Welcoming the Newcomer – Most of us were new once!
Very few of us have come to Ascension since we were born, and perhaps most of us have not believed in and followed Jesus Christ since childhood. This means almost all of us were once new to faith in Jesus, or at least to Ascension Church. So I ask you to pause and remember what it was like to come to faith in Christ, or to enter the doors of a church for the 1st time…… Now there are strange thoughts in circulation. For instance that you have to be good enough to come to Church, or that it will only be comfortable if the people are like you, or simply that ‘they’ won’t want me. Let’s get a few things straight, God’s truth on this if you like. Since right back in the Old Testament God has spoken to people communicating His desire that His blessing will come on all nations. On this Advent Sunday, we begin to ponder again the coming of Christ into our world. And we read this vision repeated: ‘people from all over the world will stream there to worship’  – there being the ‘holy mountain’ of God’s presence! A place where God can show all people his ways. Christ really did come for everyone, as we regularly say each Christmas! And in our Gospel, Jesus cashed this out on the ground – having called the despised Matthew from his Roman tax collector’s booth, Jesus accepted an invitation to go to Matthew’s house for a dinner party with ‘many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners’  . Criticized by the religious people for doing this, Jesus replied said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.”  The truth we discover is, we all need the doctor! The longer I’m a Christian, the more I realize this to be true! So when someone new comes, just as you came, remember to welcome them into this place of worship (we’ll be exploring how to do this today). Remember it’s great to be here, and that the tenderness of God’s mercy is for all who come – for the newcomer, and still for you, however long you’ve been here! And a final Advent thought, Jesus himself came, and often still comes, as a newcomer….  Isaiah 2. 2-3;  Matthew 9.10 & 12