In pm's words
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December 24, 2017, 10:54 AM

the one about that crazy story...


Sermon from December 24, 2017

Text: Luke 1: 26-38

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

I can only imagine as you walked into worship this morning and looked at the bulletin and thought where are the Christmas hymns?! What in the world is pastor Matt doing? Why are they dragging this out! Doesn’t this church know people have and need something to celebrate today! HURRY UP WITH IT!

So yes, we are still waiting to celebrate and look forward to the hope of God’s in-breaking into the world.

Yet, while we wait, we get this really good story leading up to Jesus’ birth.

We get to be with Mary, the mother of our Lord.

Now, no matter where you sit on the spectrum of theology and faith – Mary is important. Really important in the story of our faith and life. There are things that we know about her and lots of stuff (lots of stuff) that we’ve thrown upon her that aren’t really true.

For example – as sweet as the song is, yes Mary knew. Literally. The angel told her.

I think the part of Mary’s life that we always jump past (because we all are pretty impatient to get to the birth and celebration) is this conversation she has with the Angel of the Lord. What I find fascinating with this conversation is that Mary hears an incredible story that involves her. Imagine how we would respond if placed in the same situation?

A few decades ago…FBI agents conducted a “search and seizure” at the Southwood Psychiatric Hospital in San Diego, which was under investigation for medical insurance fraud. After hours of poring over many rooms of financial records, some sixty FBI agents worked up quite an appetite. The case agent in charge of the investigation called a local pizza parlor with delivery service to order a quick dinner for his colleagues.

The following telephone conversation took place:
 

Agent: Hello. I would like to order nineteen large pizzas and sixty-seven cans of soda.

Pizza man: And where would you like them delivered?

Agent: To the Southwood Psychiatric Hospital.

Pizza man: To the psychiatric hospital?

Agent: That’s right. I’m an FBI agent.

Pizza man: You’re an FBI agent?

Agent: That’s correct. Just about everybody here is.

Pizza man: And you’re at the psychiatric hospital?

Agent: That’s correct. And make sure you don’t go through the front doors. We have them locked. You’ll have to go around to the back to the service entrance to deliver the pizzas.

Pizza man: And you say you’re all FBI agents?

Agent: That’s right. How soon can you have them here?

Pizza man: And you’re over at Southwood?

Agent: That’s right. How soon can you have them here?

Pizza man: And everyone at Southwood is an FBI agent?

Agent: That’s right. We’ve been here all day and we’re starving.

Pizza man: How are you going to pay for this?

Agent: I have my check book right here.

Pizza man: And you are all FBI agents?

Agent: That’s right, everyone here is an FBI agent. Can you remember to bring the pizzas and sodas to the service entrance in the rear? We have the front doors locked.

Pizza man: I don’t think so.
Click.

When we are confronted with stories that seem too good to be true or feel like someone is pulling our leg, we don’t believe it. I think if an angel had spoken to us like it spoke to Mary, we’d probably act like that pizza man. Disbelief and finding a way to end the conversation quickly.

Yet, the beauty and wonder of Mary is that she knew the story that was told to her was true. She knew it. And unlike almost every other person that God encountered in scripture as they are told about the plans, journey, and adventure that God has set before them, Mary boldly and confidently accepts that commission.

What faith! She truly is a highly favored one indeed!

A lot of things are going on in this short story. We have this divine message conveyed to Mary. It is unbelievable and even Mary ponders how this could be! As the messenger continues, I can only imagine the thoughts rolling through her head.

She’ll be the mother of God’s literal own son. She’ll hold him. She’ll kiss his boo-boos. She’ll help shape him into the messiah he is foretold to be. She’ll probably even have to scold him from time to time.

Yet, as those thoughts of the possibility of ‘mothering’ God come to her, imagine all those other thoughts as well. The implications and stigma that will be attached to her. The stories and accusations that will swirl around her because she is pregnant and the daddy isn’t her husband. As one of my colleagues and friends puts it, Mary is hearing her place in God’s story and how her life and well-being will be literally put on the line.

In the assurance of the Spirit that things will be OK, she boldly accepts God’s will for her. “Here I am. I am your servant, let it be with me according to your will.

Mary boldly accepts God’s plan for her. It comes with joy, risk, and eventual heartbreak. She knew. She knows. She says, “Here I am.”

God calls each of us into service of our Lord as well. Granted, not in the same way as Mary, but God does call us into avenues and journeys of faith that come with an abundance of joy coupled with a healthy dose of risk and heartbreak.

Through God’s saving action on the cross in the victory over sin and death, we are called to live a life of love and forgiveness for others because we have already received that love and grace. We are called to be like Jesus to those around us. And as much as it gets twisted in commercialization during this time of year, we do tend to see ourselves more open to the idea of being generous, gracious, and forgiving (though, there is still more work for all of us to model that life and live that life towards all others as well).

We celebrate and remember this action of God as love come down to be with us. Living life among us, being present – fully and deeply – in the life of the world; for the world.

And even as we’ve journeyed through and around this little conversation in Mary’s beautiful life, we still overlooked one important and needed part. Before Mary hears this crazy story that involves her, before she boldly accepts this commission and call to be the mother of God born to the world – she hears God’s promise of presence with her.

Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!

Before all this is to take place, Mary is reminded that God is present with her.

So, too is God present with each of us.

Before we take on those calls that are equally exciting and anxiety inducing. God is with us.

Before we have those bold talks about equality, love, and forgiveness. God is with us.

Before we proclaim God’s presence in the world – in ways we wouldn’t expect. God is with us.

Even while we wait in impatience for the celebration of this birth. God is with us.

Even as we hear stories that might be too good to be true about God’s unexpected grace in our lives, even as we question it in so many ways. God is with us.

That is what we remember, celebrate, and look forward to in expectant hope as we end this season of Advent and look to the birth of God – God is with us. Always. Amen.

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