Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Today's Saying
As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Luke 1:44
Today the liturgical churches celebrate the Last Sunday in Advent. The gospel in the Common Lectionary is Luke 1:39-55.
This marks the end of the Advent season. We have almost reached Christmas. All through the season the texts have pointed us to the Christ who came at Christmas and the Christ who will come again.
I really love this gospel. It is full of wonderful images.
The problem is people end up arguing over the question of did this really happen or did the early church make this up. In so doing they miss the beauty of the text, the wonder of the moment captured her in fantastic images. I really wish that people who don’t want to believe would pick some other text to fight over.
Let us just take this text and savor the images.
First there are two pregnant ladies, cousins, who are carrying bhoth the Messiah and the one who will point to Him. Each of them knows that the baby she carries is special.
Mary has come to her cousins home to escape those people who will be upset by her pregnancy. She has come to hide for a bot.
But now a wild thin happens. Elizabeth recognizes Mary’s child as the Messiah and rejoices in the knowledge.
The moment is very special . Even the unborn children know it is special.
This is the first time Jesus and John are together in the same place. They will not meet again until John baptizes Jesus. But the meeting creates in my mind a beautiful image. The baby John recognizes the presence of the Word becoming flesh and leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb. What an image. John whose task is the point the way to Jesus. John whose task is the prepare the way for Jesus has already begun. This is a text to image. This is a text to feel.
But then Elizabeth responds to John’s joy with her own and she also recognizes Mary’s baby as the Messiah. Here is another image to be savored. It is another image to feel.
Feel the joy, wonder, awe of Elizabeth now standing in the presence of the Lord of the Universe. She understands the kind of faith that Mary had to accept this promised child. She knows Mary to be blessed and because Mary is there she sees herself as favored.
But then then the best image of all a Mary is so filled with joy she sings from her soul a testimony to God’s love. The song lets us see Mary as an instrument by which God’s love is breaking into the world. That love comes not through Kings but an ordinary person. The song reminds us that the God of Israel loves the poor and the needy and this Messiah comes for them as well.
I have always felt this text was best preached on by lifting the images and letting us feel with the people in them.
Take a Bible. Read the text. Try to feel and see what is happening.
It is almost Christmas and Mary and Elizabeth point us to the Christ.

Pastor Joan can’t help but wonder if some character from today’s lesson will show up during the service as John the Baptist did last week. But she has written a sermon and here is part if it.
“This morning I offer you the testimony of a happy baby. This morning a baby points us to Jesus .
I’m not talking about the kids in the Sunday School Pageant. They tried to point us to Christmas. The center of everything was Jesus but somehow we get so caught up in the funny things they do wrong and how cute they are that we miss the fact that they are pointing us to Christ.
No! The baby I’m talking about this morning wasn’t even born yet when he started his ministry of getting things ready for Jesus.
He was still in his mother’s womb.
But he was so happy when Jesus came into the room , inside of Mary, that he leaped for joy. The good news is his mother didn’t think it was just another one of those cute baby things but understood he was pointing. The one person who could know what he was pointing to, did.
That’s what should happen at our Sunday School play. We should see not the funny kids but the Jesus these funny kids point to. We need to become more like Elizabeth.
Now it’s not that Elizabeth didn’t feel her babies joy. She obviously did . It’s that Elizabeth allowed it to point her to the Christ. Every year when we put on a Sunday School Christmas program we hope it will bring you closer to Jesus. We pray over it. We put lots of effort into it.
In the end it’s not about little Suzzie who forgot her line and did that cute wave to her mother. Its not about Raymond who fell off the stage because he was doing something he wasn’t supposed to.
No! In the end we want you to see Jesus.
So we that introduction our Sunday School will now present their annual Christmas play. Remember what it is all about.”


Blogger Dulce said...

I almost forgot what Xmas is really about... as so many people do.
Thank you Dr. for the reminder!

3:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a wonderful quote.
I say: I have a child within And I love to meet again & again.

6:28 AM  
Blogger Melli said...

LOL! It IS hard to remember when those kids are being so cute to look toward Him and not them! I admit it! Thankfully they are NOT the ONLY reminder we get!

I'm so glad that if our services had to be cancelled today - I could at least come here to hear YOUR sermons! THAT's what I'm thankful for today! And I will go read that text... in both NIV and The Message! Cuz I love that story too... and I have always loved the part where baby John LEAPS for JOY! :) It makes ME leap for joy too!

8:00 AM  
Blogger DawnTreader said...

That was a wonderful sermon - thank you!

10:55 AM  
Blogger Finding Pam said...

I love this scripture. It is so beautiful.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Melissa B. said...

You know, I never looked forward to the Christmas pageant they have at church for the early much competition, to see whose precious kiddos would get to play Joseph and Mary!

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful sermon my friend.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Peter (Worldman): said...

Hello Dr. John,

I have been limited these last weeks with the use of my hand. But things are improving and I shall be back fully very soon.

Having not commented very much, I though did read your posts with, as usual, big pleasure.

My best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family.

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Dr. John. This was lovely.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous quilly said...

At evening worship tonight we did a dramatic reading from this text. It was very powerful and moving.

11:00 PM  
Anonymous quilly said...

Oh! I should clarify. We did not know what was coming but as we arrived this afternoon for music rehearsal, Pastor gave the members of the praise leadership team selections of the reading and assigned us parts.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"somehow we get so caught up in the funny things they do wrong and how cute they are that we miss the fact that they are pointing us to Christ."

Amen! Thank you for this reminder, Dr. John.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Sue said...


6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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