December 6, 2020: The Second Sunday of Advent – Love
The Second Sunday of Advent – Love – Mary and Joseph
- Prelude – “Cantabile” by Darwin Wilford; Pauline Olsen, organ; Donna Grubbs, piano
- Welcome – Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 210 – “Toda la Tierra,” by Alberto Taule; Patty Shoop, hymn leader; Donna Grubbs, piano
- Advent lighting – Bill and Lynette Baughman
- Prayer time – Deacon Kathleen Charters
- Scripture reading – Matthew 1:18-23; Dave Herr
- Advent drama – Mary and Joseph; Randy Grubbs, Margot Hewitt, Becky Morgan, Rick Olson
- Sermon – Love – Mary and Joseph; Pastor Brad Beeman
- Special Music – “The Magnificat,” by John Talbot; Dorothy Beeman, vocalist; Brad Beeman, guitar
- Hymn 211 – “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” traditional; Patty Shoop, hymn leader; Donna Grubbs, piano
- Sung Benediction – Hymn 206, “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light,” by Kathleen Thomerson; Patty Shoop, hymn leader; Donna Grubbs, piano
- Postlude – “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme,” by Johann Gottfried Walther; Terry Reitz, organ
What did they say in the narration? Nobody could have ever imagined, ever dreamt or even would have ever believed that the savior they were waiting for would come from a town no one had ever heard of. No one would have ever believed that he would come from someone who wasn’t really Jewish. I mean, she was Galilean. Judeans, those around Jerusalem would say that Galileans were too short, had big noses, talked with funny accents, and weren’t real Jews. They had no royal blood. They didn’t practice the proper faith the way Jews were supposed to practice faith. They had friends and associates that weren’t Jewish at all. I mean, all of this is just so wrong.
No one would have ever believed that the Messiah wouldn’t be a miracle like those of Sarah or even Elizabeth; you know, God allowing someone who was beyond child-bearing years to be given the gift of a first-born son. I mean, this time it’s a young girl, almost before childbearing years. And, she wasn’t even married. Those other women were married. They were settled. They were from the chosen. They were Jewish-purely Jewish. They had the right husbands. They lived in the proper places. Not this young girl. Nothing in this story makes any sense. None of it. It’s part of the reason there is still that struggle about Jesus today. None of this fits how everything was supposed to happen…none of it.
Think about it. When the savior would come, everybody expected some massive explosion of light; a light that would penetrate the darkness of Jerusalem. The savior would ride down from the heavens on a lightning bolt. He would personally overwhelm the Romans, even destroy Rome. He would create incredible fear among all of the enemies of Israel, and Israel would very literally become the light for all the nations of the world. It would become the center of the universe. And the Messiah would sit on the throne of David, that very throne, and would rule the kingdom and the world like no other. But, as far as we Christians now see it, it wasn’t to be.
If we understand anything by now, we understand that God is a God of surprises, who consistently does the unexpected. It’s how God gets our attention, even our admiration. So, in this case, God chose a girl no more than thirteen or fourteen years old (girl in traditional Jewish costume pictured below). He appeared to her in her home, in the figure of light. Her home was a one-room hovel where she served others in the household. The family lived up on a platform above the stables that housed the animals.
That’s how they stayed warm. God didn’t choose a palace. God didn’t even choose the Temple. He didn’t choose Jerusalem. He chose a town that didn’t even have a road. It had what was more like a goat path. It may have had, maybe 100 people, maybe a few more. And come on, nobody had even heard of it.
It was a challenging place to live. The soil couldn’t be tilled because of the cannon ball-sized rocks that were everywhere. There wasn’t really any water to speak of. They couldn’t grow any fruit, or almost anything else for that matter. They had to travel to get what they needed. Nobody is really sure why a town was even there. It was so nothing…that it didn’t even show up on any maps of the time. It was very literally the last place on earth where anyone would ever imagine a savior could come from, let alone be conceived.
But it was there that God decided to add one more miracle to His long list of miracles. It was there that God decided to do what God did. He visited, but didn’t just visit. His Spirit came into that simple home of a young, unmarried, betrothed, and promised girl. The girl was filled with so much love that she became pregnant with God’s child – a child of overwhelming love. It’s again as unexpected and as opposite as it gets. Unmarried, unknown, totally obscure, unaware, naive, unexpected, overwhelmed; these are all words that can describe Mary. But why? Why would God choose Mary? Why choose someone who was already betrothed? Why would God stir things up in this way, causing Joseph to break the old laws in order to protect his bride-to-be? Why would Joseph even seek to protect her?
Joseph had nothing to lose if he were to allow the officials to kill her. It’s what she deserved. She was pregnant before being married. The laws are clear. By design, it is to be confusing, even disturbing, even angering. But what we do is take a story like this one and make it into something it was never intended to be – pageantry and even poetry. It’s not pageantry. It’s certainly not poetry. It’s a dramatic shift in the world’s understanding of God…and because of that, it is the precursor to what is to come.
This story should take our breath away, not because of the prophecies but because of how negative and disturbing, confusing, and unbelievable this is. It should be filled with judgment and condemnation.
I mean, think about it. Even fifty years ago an unwed teenage mother would have been ostracized. A hundred years ago they would have been sent away so as not to bring shame to the family. According to the ancient laws, those practiced 2000 years ago a girl like this should have been killed. That’s what God’s law said, and it said it clearly. So what in the world is going on here? God is what’s going on here. God is seeking to begin creation again, this time in a more subtle, more unbelievable, more grace-filled, loving, and totally redefining way. I think God succeeds. Think about it.
Like we talked about last week, this is a dark time in the history of the Jews. For the third time, the country is overwhelmed by an empire. This time it’s not their neighbors; not Assyria or Babylon. This time it’s Rome. Rome has conquered them and made them subservient all over again. Somewhat like the empires that preceded them, the Romans are robbing God’s chosen people of everything they have. There is little freedom, and the anxiety is real and it is huge. It’s also growing. As terrible as it is, it’s about to get worse.
Yet out of the darkness, a tiny sliver of light begins to appear, and like last week, it focuses on some obscure prophecies. After examining the people walking in darkness, this set focused on a young girl. The light is still far away and hard to see, but it’s coming. It will take more than a sliver of light to allow the journey to continue. But God is God, and as Mary said, all things are possible with God.
The Magnificat: Luke 1:46-56
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, For he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
For the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
What began as a sliver of light in a tiny house, in a nothing town, begins to become brighter. The darkness begins to show signs of something more, something more definitive. What were shadows begin to take on identifiable forms. It’s like a tiny light in the distant darkness, where the closer you move toward it, the more the light becomes a singular identifiable place. And in this part of the story, the light takes on the form of a young and unexpected girl. And what adds so much power to it, is that if it can be someone like Mary who changes the world, just think of what we can do. The journey toward the light continues, and that brings us to this table…