Saturday, December 17, 2011

An older sermon on the annunciation

Thought I'd share an older sermon on the Annunciation - it's about 6 years old. It's based loosely on Luther's focus 'Mary said yes.' But as I went through commentaries on-line, I found a well-reasoned argument that 'it's not about Mary.' Now, both ways may be true. Here's my take on the Lutheran aspect.

In Advent, we discover themes that shape our identity. We have heard that we are the waiting people, between the incarnation and the promise of something more -
we are the wilderness people,
holding on to God’s words in a time and place that isn’t really open to knowing God.

And today, today we hear of a third Advent element - the giving and acceptance of call. We see, in Mary, the first believer, the open heart, the one who says Yes. Here then, is the whole message of Advent, that the people who wait, who live in the wilderness to be shaped as a people of holiness and godliness, are also given the call to embody God - and the opportunity to respond to that call.

We hear of Mary, not even really a woman. She’s betrothed, not married yet - probably pretty young (although I think 13 may be stretching it). We usually assume that she was pious, a good, trusting young woman, but honestly, we don’t know that. She could have been a tomboy, a rebellious teenager, resisting her appointed role. All we know is that she is the one to whom the angel came.

And that angel Gabriel came, and spoke to her and she was perplexed, puzzled, and dismayed - as most of us would be if an angel spoke such words to us. “Howdy, You’ve been selected, for a special mission of incredible significance - which, by the way, will ruin your reputation, change all your plans and cause you incredible heartbreak.”

And Mary said yes. “You will conceive a child - in a miracle - and that child will be the Son of God, and the King of David’s line.” and she said Yes. She said “Look, I’m God’s, let it be so.”

God entered humanity this way. Through Mary. Through creation. Through this one person - about whom we really know very little - except she said Yes. Mary was of the people who were waiting - waiting for a Messiah. And she would enter her own wilderness - the place where she alone knew the depth of joy and pain that this child would bring - Mary would ponder all these things in her heart.

And what is so wonderful about this story is that we are all Mary - we are all waiting in the wilderness for a Messiah - and we are those to whom God will offer a call - a mission - a job to do.

And that is exactly the point, the point of Advent - the point of all these stories. God acts through ordinary human beings like you and me, ordinary human beings that trust God enough to undertake extraordinary missions beyond their capabilities or imaginings.

God comes to us in creation - and God became creation - became human in this most loving act of “incarnation.” God always comes to us through creation. To us God comes through the water of baptism, through the bread and wine of the Holy Communion, through the hand of a loved one, or through the voice of a stranger. Mostly, God comes to us in ordinary ways, through ordinary people. This God uses us, ordinary people, to do his work now.

An author visited a monastery and greeted one of the monks with the words “Merry Christmas.” and he said to her “May Christ be born in you.” (Sue Monk Kidd) She pondered this, as Mary did, as we might. What might it mean that Christ be born in us?

That is the message of Advent - may Christ be born in us - may we become “Marys” in our time and place. It’s about an attitude: Look, here I am, let it be done to me, with me, in me, as you, God desire. If God’s desire is to make Christ real, to make Christ known - and he chooses us to do so - what shall we say?

We repeat these lessons, year after year, so that we can be asked, and ask ourselves - what must happen for that birth to take place? What must happen in us, in me, so that Christ may be born in us, in me? What must change - what must be given up or what must be found? What must enter into our hearts and what must be released? What must be shared and what must be nurtured, so that Christ may be born in us?

For Mary, the Mother of Jesus - at this point it was her own plan, her project, even her self-image - that had to be made subordinate to the will of the God. It was the adoption of an attitude of obedience, of trust and yes, a willingness to submit her expectations to the plan of God.

For us individually, it may be our desires to keep things secure and safe - to take the easy road. For the faith community of _______ I would suggest it is similar. Soon you will have the new _____ that God desires - you will no longer be in the interim time, you will no longer be holding your breath.

And, rather than see this new period as the time of setting out your own personal agendas - I challenge you to enter this time as the Virgin Mary did - with an open heart to hear the call, to accept the mission, to search out and be obedient to the will of God. The call is coming - in some way the call is here - in the needs and desires and lonely hearts all around us. Now it is for us to find the attitude of obedience, trust and seeking for the Holy Spirit that will allow us, with Mary, to say Yes.


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