Sermon Advent 4 December 24, 2017

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16               Canticle 18                 Romans 16:25-27                  Luke 1:26-38

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Life is full of choices and at times we would all like to have a prophet or an angel tell us what is best.  David had Nathan, now Nathan wasn’t always right.  He at first told David to build the Temple.  The very next day Nathan reversed himself because he had not listened to God before speaking.  Prophets are supposed to pass on the Word of God not by their own judgment but rather by the revelation of God.  Nathan shows us how easy it is to make a decision or impart some advice before duly taking into account God’s intent.  David’s desire to build the Temple was to get God to settle down, to be put in a place where God was always available.  There may also have been an underlying political motive to get God to settle down in David’s capital Jerusalem, because that would be the ultimate statement of approval and power that is God being on David’s side, or so David thought.

Israel is going through the same thought process now with the United States deciding to move its embassy to Jerusalem.  It’s about political power so Israel can say they have a superpower on their side and Jerusalem is theirs.  And that power being against the very same people David fought both for  (1 Samuel 27:1)  and against three thousand years ago – the more things change the more they stay the same.  Is Israel making the same mistake as David.  The Jews have, as prophesied, returned to the Promised Land after two thousand years and Jerusalem is their de facto capital, like David, what more do they need ?  Will God respond ?  Stay tuned !

God doesn’t like being used.  He reminded David that God had brought him from being a lowly shepherd boy to be the King of all Israel.  What more authority, power or justification could David need ?  If God had done all that for him, why would he craftily try and engineer a bit more, to milk God’s bounty for all it was worth ?  No need if you are established by God you don’t need symbols to show you have it.  David gets a lecture but is reassured by God that his house – his lineage – will last forever.  God is forgiving.

On the other hand Mary was just a regular teenager of her time.  In a time and place when life was short but not sweet, she was probably looking for security and a little comfort and maybe a little respect too.  The last thing she needed was to get pregnant out of wedlock.  Like Victorian and Edwardian times that was an unforgivable sin.  The Victorians and Edwardians set up homes for unwed mothers and in many, many cases took their children away from them and threw the mothers back into society without any support physical or emotional.  Today we have a more enlightened view and one which can discourage abortion, our national shame, by providing supports to the virgin-or-not Mary’s of our day.  Thank God !  Mary had no such support until God later spoke with Joseph and reassured him  (Matthew 1:20)  otherwise she would have been out on her neck scraping a living from whomever might want to exploit her.

Mary then was in a box.  She risked losing everything, her fiancée, her place in society and even her life, if she accepted God’s will for her to bear the Saviour of the World.  How many of us would ask God to reconsider.  It reminds me of Tevye in  ‘Fiddler on the Roof’.  Facing yet another pogrom against the Jews he prays to God  “I know, I know.  We are your Chosen People but once in a while can’t You choose someone else ?”.  But Mary is no Tevye she takes the exact opposite tack.  She says  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;  for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant”.  And she gets the respect that would otherwise be unobtainable for a girl in her position, she goes on  “From this day all generations will call me blessed:  the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name”.  By accepting God’s will, not trying to engineer it, she is justified by God.

So the question has to come up.  When should we ask for God’s guidance ?  Probably not asking when should we go shopping, today or tomorrow, or which coat to wear, or which card to play but more important stuff, like should I call a friend in need now, or how much should I give to charity, or what can I say to a wayward child, or should I visit a shut-in, things that will affect others, things that are important to others.  Even how should I vote ?  At whatever level in our political economy especially at Vestry !

And when you have found the course of action you should take do it whole heartedly the way Mary did she said  “Here am I, the servant of the Lord;  let it be with me according to your word“.  Nothing conditional about that !  None of that is easy.  Later Mary finds out that her decision will bring grief when Simeon tells her that  “A sword will pierce your own soul too”  (Luke 2:35)  nevertheless she is not deterred.  Commitment like that needs a strong faith, so pray for that too, it needs unselfishness, so pray for that too, it needs trust that God will bring it right, so pray for that.  You will be assured after all because that is the whole story from the Incarnation to the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  In Advent we have been waiting for that to begin, to unfold.  It is just as prophesied and it will continue to happen every year when people of faith come together to worship the Babe in the Manger.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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