Friday, December 14, 2012

Sermon for Sunday, December 16, 2012; Luke 1:39-56

Rev. George Miller
Luke 1:39-56
Dec 16, 2012

We have entered into the third Sunday of Advent.

Luke, like a southern gentleman, is continuing to tell his tale in a slow, relaxed pace using poetry and hyperbole.

He is using multiple techniques to tell us just how boundary-breaking, radically inclusive the Jesus experience is.

In the past two weeks we talked about hope, we talked about joy. Now, today, we talk about peace.

But first, a recap of what has happened so far.

In the city of Jerusalem, Zechariah and Elizabeth, an older righteous couple, hear the hopeful news that they will have a son named John.

In the process, Zechariah is rendered mute and Elizabeth goes into seclusion.

Six months later in the small country town of Nazareth their relative Mary, a young girl engaged to be married to Joseph, hears the joyful news that she will have a son.

His name is to be Jesus and he will establish God’s kingdom here on earth.

Upon hearing this revelation, Mary departs for a two day journey to Elizabeth’s home.

Upon hearing the voice of Mary, Elizabeth’s child leaps inside her belly and she gives the first confession of Christian faith in Luke’s Gospel.

Then Mary, in melodious words of praise, makes a profound statement about God.

But do not be fooled, these are not words of a passive petunia, but of a resilient rose whose message bears both beauty and thorns.

Mary is, after all, a pubescent, passionate peasant who is fully aware of what she’s been called to do and how the birth of her son will change the world.

Mary’s words, known as the Magnificat, celebrate God’s mercy and the ways in which the Lord will make sure those who are without will have “enough.”

Make no doubt about it, Mary’s speech is political, celebrating what God has done, is doing and will do.

Put her on a balcony in an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical and she would be Evita Peron singing to the descamisados.

But, today we are not going to talk about politics; there are other times and places to do that. Today we will talk about peace.

Peace…as in rest.

Peace…as in the after affect of experiencing God’s blessed assurance.

Peace…as in that which follows feelings of hope and joy.

Think of what has gone on already. Zechariah is unable to talk. Elizabeth is 6 months into her first pregnancy.

What would their household have been like at this point? How far out would her belly be? What levels have her morning sickness raised too? What are the neighbors saying?

Mary has just discovered she’s pregnant. She leaves her hometown and fiancé to travel 2 days to Elizabeth’s hillside home.

At this point both women are probably a bit tired. And then they come together.

One the wife of a priest, one engaged to a carpenter.

One who lives in the big city, the other from a small hick town.

One who is much older, the other who is very young.

Can you hear how even before Jesus is born, boundaries are being broken down?

Now think of what those three months together must have been like for them.

For Elizabeth, there is finally someone to talk with; someone who will not judge. There is someone to help prepare meals with, do household chores, share stories, songs and memories with.

There is indeed a peace that comes when we have someone close to us who we can just be ourselves with, to make no apologies to.

For Mary, there would have been the comfort of having someone older and wiser to seek advice from. To learn what to expect. To gather strength from.

There is indeed peace that comes when we have someone who can mentor us, watch over and guide us on our journey.

Imagine how peaceful those three months together would have been, as they have the chanced to cherish their growing bodies.

Peace from eating the right food together, doing gentle exercises, measuring each other’s tummies. (Margaret Hebbelthwaite)

The songs they would sing as they combed out each other’s hair, the stories about their ancestors they would share while carving toys or sewing garments.

Imagine peace radiating out and filling their home. But let’s not forget that there is a third person in this story: Zechariah.

Unable to speak, what would it have been like for him to spend 6 months in silence?

Sure, he and his wife would have created ways to communicate via notes, head nods and body movements.

But how frustrating for Zechariah, as a man, as a priest, to not be able to use his voice.

The restless silence that would have filled his days and nights.

And now Mary, rich with new life, was there in their hillside home, filling their rooms with conversation, with laughter and tears.

And yes, I am sure there were moments when the women talked a little too loud, talked a little too much, gossiped a bit too boisterously.

I am sure they told some randy jokes at Zechariah and Joseph’s expense.

But I expect that this was ultimately a time of peace for Zechariah.

A peace that came from hearing his wife laugh.

A peace from knowing they were not alone.

A peace from listening to their hushed conversations coming from the kitchen, the living room, the garden.

All three of their lives have forever changed, and for three months, before life changes again, they are able to find refuge.

Refuge in this hillside home where three people from such divergent backgrounds are able to come together and remember just how good and merciful God can be.

I believe that often times this is what going to church on Sunday morning is about for some folk.

It’s about the peace that comes from leaving behind our life for a moment and finding refuge in a peaceful place.

Church is about reclaiming that anchor which keeps us steady during life’s floods.

Church is about experiencing the Holy Spirit falling upon us like a dove and feeling that peace from within.

Today, we are all Zechariahs, Marys and Elizabeths, all seeking and deserving moments of peace that come from experiencing our Lord, Jesus Christ…

…Have you come here today because there are things happening in your life that scare the heck out of you? May you find peace.

Have you come here today because you know what it’s like to feel persecuted and judged? May you find peace.

Have you come here today because there are things happening which are beyond your control? May you find peace.

Have you come here today because illness or death and not enough new life are filling your day? May you find peace.

Have you come here today because it feels like all you’ll be doing next week is rush, rush, rushing? May you find peace.

Have you come here today because you are dreading this holiday season because someone you loved is no longer here or your life has dramatically changed? May you find peace.

In conclusion, we continue our Advent journey to the manger, following the trajectory Luke has placed before us.

Today we have experienced just how the promise of Jesus’ birth is already bringing about change.

How God is working to bring about hope, joy and peace.

How the fears of scarcity and loss are being replaced with an economy and generosity for all.

May we each find ways to glorify the peace that Jesus brings, knowing that in Christ we will all get to humbly walk with our Lord in which there is justice, there is mercy and there is indeed enough.

No matter who you are, no matter what age you may be, no matter where you are on life’s journey,

may the peace of Jesus Christ be upon us all this week.

Amen and amen.

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