Rev. George Miller
“…of What’s to Come”
November 24, 2013
Fathers and sons usually have an interesting relationship, one that is often based on issues of identity and hopes for the future.
Last week’s episode of the TV show Modern Family dealt with this theme.
The family was going to a local fair. Jay, the patriarch, is with his wife Gloria and his adopted son, Manny. Manny is not like other boys; he is 12 years old but has an old soul. He enjoys wearing fedoras, wooing girls with poetry and his drink of choice is espresso.
Manny is entering the fair’s cake contest and has created a confectionary replication of Los Angeles. Jay is not too happy about this, worried that Manny will be teased by all the other kids and wishes he was more into things like football.
The episode moves along in a usual sitcom pace. The cake judging is about to take place, but Manny’s cake is not there and they have 10 seconds to get it to the table.
“Don’t worry, Mom,” Manny says, as he leads her through the crowd, barreling through the people, knocking down anyone who gets in his path of victory.
The football coach witnesses Manny’s focus, strength and determination and next thing you know, Manny is on the football team as their ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬-fullback and leads them to their first victory.
Jay, his father, is so proud; but truth be told Manny is more excited about winning 1st place in the cake contest!
Fathers and sons usually have interesting relationships, based on issues of identity, hopes for the future, expectations and wanting to pass on a bit of oneself and family history.
Though not a parent, I see this in my interactions with Cornelius (my ‘Lil Brothers through BBBS).
Now, Cornelius is the one who is into sports and football and I, well you know I like my Disney, cakes and show tunes.
We both are learning so much from one another. He has taught me about the rules of football but I have to tell you, Cornelius made my day when he told me, on his own, that he wanted to audition for the theater’s upcoming production of “Wizard of Oz.” That’s an experience we can share together.
But the truth is, Cornelius could tell me he despises theater and dislikes Disney, and I’d be fine with that, because it’s more important that he discovers who he is meant to be and that he grows into that person as healthily and honestly as he can.
Fathers and sons usually have interesting relationships, and in today’s reading we hear the words of a father speaking to and about his son.
Zechariah is a priest. One day, while in the Temple, he is visited by the angel Gabriel who tells Zechariah the good news: he will indeed have a son; the child will be called John and he will be the reason for much joy and gladness.
But the news is tempered with a reality: as amazing as John will be, he is actually just a precursor to what’s to come.
John will bring families back together and he will bring wisdom to the foolish, but alas, John is not going to be the star player.
He is not going to be the quarterback of the team or the one who scores the winning touchdown. He is going to be more like the fullback, making the way for the Lord.
I wonder how Zechariah responded to this news. First of all, he must have been amazed and perplexed: there is an angel talking to him! How often does that happen!
But then, there is the human side. His son will bring joy and gladness, but he will not be the ultimate reason for that joy and gladness.
His son will pave the way; but he will not, never ever, be The Way.
Often times, we are too familiar with the stories in the Bible; often times we place its people on high holy-chairs. We know the stories, how they are ultimately going to play out. We know what Jesus is going to do; we know the lives that he will forever transform.
So we forget to look at the people and characters within the story to get a clear idea into how they must feel, what they go through, what their internal monologues must have sounded like.
As Luke tells us, Zechariah is actually struck mute by the angel. During his wife’s pregnancy, he is not able to speak a single, solitary word.
I imagine that this time of silence must have given Zechariah a lot of time to think about things. So much to ponder: so much time to accept what was and what was not to be.
His son was to be great; but not the greatest.
Would that be good enough for Zechariah; would that do?
Think about it: if this was a Greek tragedy, if this was a Shakespearean play, the story would have unfolded much differently. Zechariah would have railed against the prophecy and found some way, any way to make his son the star; to make his son the King.
He would have visited witches at a cauldron or got his hands on a poisoned potion or kidnapped the Christ child.
And perhaps at some point, Zechariah did entertain those thoughts; but then, somehow, some way, he found the ability to…let them go.
Instead of harboring a grudge or focusing on what would never be for his son, Zechariah instead found a way to faithfully look ahead and embrace the promise…of what’s to come.
After his son is born, after Zechariah agrees that his son is to be called John, Zechariah’s speech is restored. And after giving praise to God, he speaks the words we heard today.
With nine months to get used to the state of things, he speaks eloquently of what God has done and what God will do.
Though Jesus is yet to be born, he acknowledges that it will be the son of Mary and Joseph who will fulfill the words of the prophets, who will lead the people to victory and rescue them from their enemies.
What an amazing, humble thing to say about someone else’s child. What class, what character Zechariah shows.
But I do not sense it means that Zechariah loves his own son any less, it just means that he now fully understands who his son is and what he is meant to be.
His son is the one to go up ahead and to prepare the way; he is the one to plant the seeds of wisdom about salvation and forgiveness.
He may not be the Messiah but he will be called the prophet of the Most High; he may not be “The Son of God” but he will play his own role in bringing light into the life of people covered in darkness.
His feet may not be the ones that bring people over the winning goal line, but he will play his own part in guiding their feet in the way of victory.
And there is nothing wrong about that; and any father, anywhere, should be proud that their son could play such a role…
…Today is Christ is King Sunday. Today we celebrate that Jesus was more than a carpenter. More than a rabbi. More than our friend.
Today we celebrate Christ as King.
Not a king that dominates. Not a king that humiliates or beats people into submission. Not a King that overtakes people’s lands and taxes them into poverty.
But a King who heals. A king who gathers and restores. A king who feeds.
A king whose strength does not come from working out at the gym or the threat of military arms, but from his very essence and nature; from the heavenly Kingdom that he was brought here to establish on earth.
And here is the good news: because Christ is King, we do not have to be.
Because Christ was, is and forever shall be King, we don’t have to overburden ourselves with tasks and roles we were not created for or called to do.
Because Christ is King, we are not; therefore we can focus our attention onto who we are and the best version of ourselves that we can be.
And, I do not believe John is the one and only person called to pave a way for the Lord. I don’t believe John is the only one to give knowledge of salvation to others and share light with others in darkness.
We can too, each in our own, special way. We have all been blessed with our own unique spiritual gifts; we all have our own talents, ways of sharing joy, ways of being bearers of gladness.
With knowledge that Christ is King, and we are not, we have the opportunity to sit back, relax, and be resplendent, doing what we know we can do the best.
Thankful that God has always had a plan in place for the world.
Beginning with Abraham and Sarah, following through to Moses and Miriam, continuing with people like Zechariah and Elizabeth, and their son John, that plan has continued, even when topes have taken place, even when events of darkness have seemed to take hold.
Christ is indeed King and in him God has a heavenly playbook and a heavenly plan.
Some of us are best at baking cakes; others as being fullbacks; some may even be able to do both. But we each get to play our own role; we each get to share our part.
In doing so we each find our own way to be resplendent and to shine a light into the darkness: to share the gift of mercy with the oppressed, forgiveness with the broken down, and joy to those who weep.
Christ is indeed King; we are all blessed to play a part in his heavenly court and in his earthly field.
Amen and amen.