Sunday, December 27, 2015
A day is like a thousand years in the eyes of the Lord!
Two days (or two thousand years) ago we were in the thick of things. Sitting in wonderland as spiritual mystery happened. A fairytale was weaving all around us. Two women, Mary and Elizabeth; their ordinary first century world had been interrupted by God. They had been drawn up into heaven’s activities and timetable. The narrative reads like an epic tale like Alice in Wonderland or Dorothy being drawn up into the whirlwind. This however was not fiction. It was historically true
Today, 12 years later we are with this family as they go on their usual yearly trip to the Temple.
The parents of Jesus, Mary and Joseph were devout Jews. The Old Testament commanded such a trip for three festivals a year But by the first century, God-fearing Jews made only one journey a year because of the distances involved.
Even though a long time has passed since Mary’s scandalous pregnancy I wonder if tongues are still wagging. Are the women still giving Mary and Joseph funny looks?
After the supernatural events surrounding her pregnancy i.e. the angels announcement, the visit from the wise men and shepherds then Simeon at the dedication…there had been some strange events surrounding Jesus’ birth.
After all these things, what must be going on in Mary’s mind? There was a lot for this young woman to process as the days become months and years and life had to go on…
How does one return to being normal?
How was the miracle baby growing up?
Was Jesus doing strange supernatural things at home or was he growing up as a normal boy? We don’t know. What we do know is that life was moving along as usual…
“Each Year, his parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover” the text says.
We know that on this 12th year, they did it again, went to the Temple in Jerusalem
This was routine! This was something they did each year. Their lives were normal and ordinary in that sense. Each year, their faith required them to go to the temple and they did. Just as we routinely come to here to PUMC every Sunday.
However, this year was different! (I guess that’s why we get to read about it). Something happened this year. There was a problem. The problem was that the Boy Jesus went missing.
On this usual journey, Jesus went missing…according to Mary and Joseph. Oh the pain of a mother’s heart on realizing that their child is not there…
And what did Jesus have to say for himself? He did not call it missing. He was in his father’s house doing his father’s business. He talked back!
This event was a glimpse into the heart of the growing Jesus. The climax of the story is that Jesus had a clear sense of his calling and a unique relationship to God; one that transcends his earthly relationship to his parents.
This is my prayer for all of us…That we will know that we belong more to God than we belong to our parents!
Mary just like any anxious and frightened mother lets him have it “Don’t you know we were worried”. She does not say “Oh you’re the King of Kings so it’s ok to ran off and be God and be all smart in the temple.
By the time this situation is resolved, Mommy Mary has one more ‘charm’ to hang on her bracelet; one more thing to cherish in her heart!
After this incident, Luke says that the boy Jesus even though He was God in flesh went back with his parents and did regular things like obeying his parents.
All throughout this narrative from Zechariah’s angelic encounter in the temple till now, there seems to be the interaction of two worlds. In fact the whole Bible is a record of God’s kingdom breaking into our world in real time
The supernatural breaking into the natural!
The invisible entering into the visible
The extra ordinary becoming ordinary!
If the two wheels of a bicycle turning were the two circles in a Venn Diagram, our lives will be at the intersection of the two circles. That middle will be our individual lives. It is our time here on earth. In our lives is the intersection of two worlds.
With all these strange events breaking into Mary’s life, ALL she could do was treasure them in her heart as she went on doing normal mothering things!
Later on her life, her heart would be pierced just as Simon told her…She would lose Jesus once again, this time permanently to death. So yes she knew the pain of joy and loss.
But in all these things she had treasures of the incarnation of Christ, of God in her
Oh we are in this story…This IS us! This is our story. We have the Word of God living in us…not physically in our house but spiritually in our hearts as we function in our daily roles and routines. What is our routine? What is the world’s routine
Homework and family dinner; tragic hurts and losses; joy and pain and all that comes with living in a broken world. This is our physical reality.
The birth of Christ HAS happened. Approximately 2015 years ago but the routine of world history does not appear to have changed. The brokenness in creation still appears to exist. If anything, we have become more desensitized to evil. The height of wickedness and evil that has become routine news is shocking. There are many who doubt the existence of God in the light of such evil and brokenness.
“Where is God in all of this” They ask
Right here, among US
Just as he walked incognito among the 1st century Jewish nation, he walks here too. His spirit dwells here. Right here in the brokenness of our 21st century. Right here in this sanctuary, he is as present to us as he was to his disciples. This is what the promise of the Holy Spirit means for the church.
THIS IS OUR HOPE!
In all these things, these frailties that has become our normal, we get to carry in us Christ who has been born in us!
Love and Light HAS come into the world!
“I am doing a new thing, do you not perceive it” The prophet Isaiah said centuries earlier
That new thing has happened. Our generation (mine and yours) lives on the other side of this new thing; the GREATEST miracle in creation;
That God would become human and God’s Spirit will live in us!
This is our daring Christian witness; that Christ’s Spirit lives in us. Not that we are good people or that we do good things or love our neighbor but that Christ’s Spirit lives in us because we invited him in.
O that the eyes of our heart would be open to see Emmanuel; God with us… Like the shepherds on their normal night shift, were enabled to see angels, may our hearts see God and live and be left with the treasure of that sight
In the first century, when God was entering our world, no one noticed, it was as regular as a mother giving birth to a child that no one noticed.
Now these years later, our brains know the story so well but our hearts lose sight of the miracle of God coming to live with and in us
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
We say, “How can my eyes be opened to the invisible world of Christ’s presence?
…since there is so much pain in the world,
…since there seems to be no evidence of his presence
…since I don’t pray as much as I should
…since he was not there when I or my family called
……since this hurts so much
…since I cannot hold on any longer
…since my family’s numerous problems
…since I’m weak in soul and spirit
And the angel answered her,
The angel answers us!
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
This has NOTHING to do with our abilities. This is ALL God from start to finish. We participate in this divine awakening by giving up ourselves and our reputations.
In the weakness of a baby, God’s strength came to the world. In the weakness of our bodies, the Holy Spirit conceives this miracle of Christ
All we can bring to the table; all God asks is our weakness; our ‘normal’! All we are to bring is our humanity, our inadequacies, our neediness, our hurts, our Phoebe Quaynoress, our questions and doubts; our regular days as mother, fathers, students, clergy, teachers, grandparents. This is what we bring -for God to put His strength in
This! This is what the incarnation means for us.
God’s strength being made perfect in our weakness
God’s supernatural being made present in our natural
God’s extraordinary being made present in our ordinary
In the routine of the coming year, may our eyes be opened to the treasure of Christ’ Spirit born and living in us.
Before the hymn begins; In your seat or at the communion rail with Ps Jana, please take a few moments to reflect on what your ‘normal’ has been; and consider inviting God into it because God desires greatly to be in it. Amen