Our December 19 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. We are excited to say that our Sunday 8 & 10:30 am services are open again for in-person worship. Services will continue to be streamed online.
The December 26 Sunday worship service as well as the Christmas Eve 11pm and Christmas Day 10 am services will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services. With an upturn in county COVID cases, we recommend masks even for those who are vaccinated.
We are glad to share our worship with you. Click on “Contact Us” above to find out more about our faith family and what we believe.
Micah 5:2-5a | Luke 1:46b-55
Hebrews 10:5-10 | Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]
It’s not Christmas Eve. Today is the 4th Sunday in Advent. We are still getting ready. Some of us more than others.
But, with the lessons today, the mention of Bethlehem, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, John’s leaping in the womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting. These all tell us that the stage is now set. Everything is in place, and the major players are on the set. Christ is about to be born. Soon, Mary and Joseph will be taking their journey to Bethlehem, and the birth will take place. But first, there are a couple more things of preparation.
Mary goes to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth. Gabriel had told Mary that “she who was once called ‘barren,’ that is Elizabeth, was now with child.” He told her this as sort of a proof that his words to her were true, that she too was to have a son. So, I’ve wondered before about Mary’s trip to visit Elizabeth, whether she went for the normal reason? Young women often visited older relatives when they were pregnant to be taught what they too might expect to happen in their pregnancy, and delivery. That is rather than what they do now, take classes and look things up on the internet. And Elizabeth, we believe, was either an aunt, or older cousin of Mary. We don’t know for certain which. Or, does Mary go to visit Elizabeth to see if Gabriel’s message was true? Or, perhaps, for both reasons?
Either way, from their very greeting, we get two great pieces of religious literature. Elizabeth’s greeting is the basis for the prayer called the “Hail Mary,” which is then the basis for the song “Ave Maria,” which I think is the most sublime song that has ever been written, especially if it is sung by someone with a great voice. And Mary’s response to Elizabeth, we call the Magnificat of Mary. Both of which are important to Christianity.
Another item, we have the first meeting, sort of, of John the Baptist – who is the main figure of the season of Advent, and Jesus – the one who he is to prepare the way for. I’ve often wondered if they also met numerous times during their childhood and early adulthood, or if not again until Jesus comes to John for baptism. They were related. Maybe there were family get togethers or family reunions which they both attended. It is a question I’ll have to ask when I get there.
Anyway, all things are now set for great things. Did I say great things? We are reminded in today’s lessons of something else, and it has to do with great things. God usually sides with the lesser things, not the great things; the disenfranchised, not the empowered. That is an old tradition. Israel is often reminded, “You did not choose me. I chose you. And I chose you because you were the least of nations, so that you would have no reason to boast.” Bethlehem is chosen because it is one of the least of the villages, the City of David, but the City of David which was ignored once Jerusalem began to be called the City of David. It had basically been disenfranchised.
Elizabeth was called “barren.” That was the worst thing you could possibly call a Jewish woman. It meant that her husband’s line ended – because of her. She had failed in her duty to bear sons (whether it was her fault or not), and she was disenfranchised.
Her son John, soon to be the Baptist, what do we know of him? He wore a camel hair’s shirt and a leather belt. That was the uniform of a prophet. What did he eat? Locusts and wild honey. There are two species of locusts which are kosher. But I doubt that you will be able to pick them up at the grocery store. But that tells us something too. It was the diet of the poor. They could afford nothing else to eat. Through his ministry, God was once again siding with the poor and powerless.
Mary says, “He (God) has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant (handmaid).” Joseph may have been from a well to do family (there is an argument that he was), but, evidently, Mary was not, by her own words. But, now she will be called “blessed.” Blessed by God, of course.
Mary’s Magnificat speaks of the concern of God, as well, and the coming work of her unborn son. He will turn the world upside down. The proud (Gk: haughty, arrogant) scattered (Gk: wasted). The powerful (Gk: sovereigns, rulers) brought down (Gk: destroyed) from their thrones, and in their place, the lowly (Gk: poor, undistinguished) shall be lifted up. The hungry shall be filled or satisfied. The rich empty. There shall be a leveling of the playing field. It is a song, and a prophecy. But it is well in the tradition of the Jewish prophets of God’s concern for those who have been overlooked.
With this child, Jesus, God will display once again his concern for those who have been forgotten, the powerless, the disenfranchised. The lessons today are loaded with that message. And, it is a large part of the Gospel message. Expect the unexpected, as I said last week, or rather the exact opposite of what the world would expect!
Jesus comes as a human child, to teach us what God wants from us, these very things, and to die for the sake of the hopeless – sinners. Again, it is the disenfranchised. It is during this season of the year that we prepare for the coming of that child. And, it is also during this year, that the Church seems to reach out the most for the disenfranchised, the poor, the powerless. Or this year especially, we think of the tornado victims whose lives have been devastated. It is as if this season reminds us of the need, and opens our hearts to be generous to those who are without, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless. As much as 50% of all charitable giving is contributed during this season. That is good. But the poor you will have with you always. It is a never-ending task, and one with which we have been entrusted. There is an ancient adage, “the poor are the treasure of the Church.” It is true. As we care for them, we reflect Him whom entrusted them to us.
Why do we do this? Because of that last part of the story, the foundation of which is contained in the lessons today, the part which too often we tend to forget. We too were numbered among the outcast. Without Christ, we would still be lost completely in our sins. Being Gentiles, and further outcast, we would not even have the promises of Abraham and Moses to cling to. We would be completely disenfranchised in the eyes of God. It was to precisely those who are like us that God sends his Son, reveals His will, calls us to faith, and forgives us our iniquities. Gifts of unexpected, undeserved grace. So, we too, may sing with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” For he has lifted us up, when we were lowly, fed us with good things, and remembered us in His mercy. The birth of this coming Christ child, this coming night, proves that to us. And now all we can do is praise Him, and show our gratitude. As we love Him, and share that love with our neighbor.