12-20-15 Sunday Sermon, Advent 4
First Congregational Church
December 20, 2015
4th Sunday in Advent
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
(The following play was purchased with our Sunday School Curriculum.)
BARBIE: Hey, Ken, it’s me. Just wondering where you are. I’m in the Play Doh aisle if you get this, so call me. Or drop by.
GUY: Well hello there. Fancy seeing you here.
BARBIE: (sighs) Hello, Monopoly Guy
GUY: We have to stop meeting like this, you know.
BARBIE: Oh, if only we could.
GUY: Seems like every year about this time, we find ourselves here.
BARBIE: It’s the toy department. It’s where we belong.
GUY: You still dating Ken?
BARBIE: What if I am?
GUY: Never got what you saw in that guy, with his painted on smile and plastic hair.
BARBIE: At least he has hair.
GUY: Too bad he doesn’t have money.
BARBIE: It’s Monopoly money!
GUY: It’s more than he has.
BARBIE: I see you have a few new special editions out.
GUY: Ah yes. Always diversifying, you know.
BARBIE: I bet that Harry Potter Monopoly edition sells more than you do.
GUY: Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but a year from now, Harry Potter will be gone, and I’ll still be here.
BARBIE: As will I.
GUY: You can’t beat the classics.
BARBIE: No, you sure can’t.
GUY: Speaking of which, have you seen the Potato Heads?
BARBIE: I had lunch with Mrs. Potato Head today.
GUY: I hear they have quite a few offspring of their own. Star Wars Potato Heads, Spider-Man, Batman.
BARBIE: It’s ridiculous.
GUY: That’s kids today. They want something new, hip, and shiny. You know they swapped out the iron for a cat?
BARBIE: No! Not the iron!
GUY: Dreadful business. Next thing you know, Col. Mustard will be off the Clue game, replaced by Justin Bieber.
BARBIE: Don’t get me started on the Biebs. I’m so sick of him and his dolls. I’d like to see him be the victim on Clue.
GUY: In the billiards room?
BARBIE: With the wrench!
GUY: Relax, Bieber will be gone in a year.
BARBIE: And someone else will take his place.
GUY: But we’ll still be here.
BARBIE: You can count on that.
GUY: We’ve been popular for decades. No reason to think that’s gonna change. BARBIE: Some gifts are eternal, aren’t they? JESUS: Only one of them. GUY: I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m the Monopoly Guy. BARBIE: Hi, I’m Barbie. JESUS: Nice to meet you both. GUY: I don’t think I’ve seen you around. Are you a new movie tie-in action figure? JESUS: Not at all. BARBIE: You look like something out of one of those ancient history epics. JESUS: I do go back quite a ways. GUY: How long? JESUS: Two thousand years. GUY: Two thousand years? Why that would date you back to the first Christmas. JESUS: Yes, it does.
BARBIE: Who are you?
JESUS: I’m the giver of the very first Christmas gift, and I’m also the gift. I’m the one who gave up everything to give the world something it could never earn on its own.
JESUS: Eternal life.
GUY: Eternal life? That’s incredible. That’s unbelievable! That’s--
BARBIE: The most amazing gift anyone could ever receive.
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
Thank you, John R., Jean N., Dale H. and Missi G. Albeit light-hearted, there is a sweet juxtaposition between the reader’s theater piece and this morning’s scripture passage. Those elements of comparison have some good points for us, as well as the actions of Elizabeth and Mary giving us some good lessons.
Somewhere in the past, I came across a statement that said our primary job in all the world is to worship God. Since we do this “worship” thing every week, and a lot of people all over the globe put money, effort and talent into this weekly event, just exactly what is it we are are to be doing?
Gabe Campbell once said that the only requirement of a wedding is for the bride and groom to promise to be married to each other in front of another person and that there are two witnesses. That’s it. Just the witnessed promises - not the prayers, the ceremony, and especially not the reception and flowers. So what are the bare essentials of worship, especially in this season in which we “worship the newborn king?”
While the Monopoly Guy and Barbie knocks down the Biebster, Elizabeth shows us an element of worship: in her proclamation - speaking words of truth and praise and calling on God’s goodness. Not in a little, quiet, unsure voice, but with an immediacy and certainty statement of what she knew to be true. There are times when our situations are such that our worship is barely audible, and God understands those times. But the general idea of worship is to be bold and sure.
It is firstly, but not completely about God, because there is the element of humility in her wondering the opposite of ‘somewhere in her youth or childhood, having done something good.’
Our worship of God is saying - out loud - truths about God and our relationship to God. Mary talked about what was going on inside, her soul being a light reflecting the light and magnitude of God, actually singing in delight.
The Call to Worship, the hymns, the Lord’s Prayer, are all important in that they are uttered, and once hurled out into the universe, there is no taking them back - from us or from God. Our strength - as a church family - is increased when we hear what we are saying in that singular point in time that can never be repeated again in exactly that way. That is the strength that goes with us when we leave to go back to our individual lives, all through the year.
After the lesson about worship, there is the lesson of promise from our passage this morning. Barbie and the Monopoly Guy talked about it in terms of the classic qualities of toys, and Luke used the idea of generation to generation, God’s gifts of mercy, protection, filling the hungry with good things, all the way back to Abraham and all the generations in the future.
Just as it has been for God’s people throughout all of history, there will be times and individuals that will not look as if they are some of God’s protected and filled - physically or metaphorically. Just because things don’t look like they are true doesn’t mean they are not true. In the early months of any pregnancy, the mother doesn’t look pregnant. Her looks don’t negate the fact that she is with child. Just because it doesn’t look like Jesus loves me enough to get me the right job or the right toy for Christmas doesn’t mean that God isn’t mindful of how we are and what we need.
So this little passage about birth announcements tells us about worship and promises, but it also tells us about identity. In one sense, we have the identity of worshipers and recipients of God’s promises. But our identities are greater than just worshipers and just promise recipients, because they also include the idea of servanthood.
I think that far too often we associate servanthood with aspects of slavery; lack of freedom and being poorly treated. Willfully choosing to take on the identity of a servant, is respectful, honorable and a calling that is given to all of us. Both Mary and Elizabeth could have gotten themselves into tizzies because of their pregnancies. But they took their situations in stride, because they understood that they were about doing God’s work, whatever that was - how crazy it seemed.
We, too, are about God’s work, whatever it is. Some days, God’s work is pretty big and scary. Other days, God’s work can look like anything but work. The real importance is the condition of the heart, about doing all that we can to help others see God’s grandeur and intimacy, love and mercy.
Along with the identity of servanthood, there is the idea of blessedness. Both Elizabeth and Mary clearly understood God had chosen them to have particular roles in the history of time. Them. Just the two of them.
So what has God chosen for you to do? Just you?
Too often we try to avoid our assignments for a multitude of fears and insecurities. But in our heart of hearts, if and when we sit still enough,we realize just what an incredible opportunity we have in being co-workers with God in God’s kingdom. God certainly uses trees and lakes and animals and galaxies to bring about God’s kingdom. But we were created last, so that we could use those very creations - with God - in bringing peace and harmony to the people that call this little, old planet home. God never had to use us, but God chose - and continues to choose us. God’s been doing that for longer than any of us can imagine, but today, we are reminded of what God’s choices mean for us, so we had better pray.
Creator God of all that we know, we come to you this morning just a little awed by all that you have for us. That you give us jobs give us identities of worthiness, and that you keep your promises throughout time displays your worthiness and that you give us examples of how to praise you gives us direction. And there are no other gods that give such classic gifts. So for that alone, we thank you. But you didn’t stop there and you sent your beloved son, in the most priceless of gifts; that of a baby. That you did that out of love gives us the cause to praise, believe and follow you all the more. Help us to point to you, gracious God, whenever we think this world is completely about us, that others will know the blessedness of belonging to you. And all your children say, Amen.
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Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.