Sunday, December 20, 2009

Love All

On this snowy Sunday Morning, worship has been canceled. But that doesn't mean that we cannot still take a few minutes to worship.

The readings for this week are: Micah 5:2-5a, Hebrews 10:5-10 and Luke 1:26-56. This is also the 4th sermon in the sermon series on Advent Conspiracy. (Here are links to the other 3: Worship Fully, Give More, Spend Less.)

I hope you enjoy your snow day and that you can take a few minutes to rest and be calm in the midst of the pre-Christmas craziness that happens to many of us this time of year.

Hope to see you Thursday at 5pm for our Christmas Eve Service

Editors note: This sermon is written to be given verbally. Therefore there are probably a few typos in this sermon as well as run on sentences and sentence fragments. In other words my high school English teacher would be in horror reading this and would probably whip out the red pen , while my speech teacher would be imagining how this would sound as a spoken piece. Please be the speech teacher.

Finally! Here we are the fourth Sunday in Advent, on 5 days until Christmas and we are finally getting to read a lesson that actually has something to do with Christmas. Really five days before Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph were packing up getting ready to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, if they hadn’t already left yet. But instead, today, 5 days before Christmas, we hear the story of Mary being told that she was pregnant and then traveling to her cousin Elizabeth to celebrate. Now I don’t actually have any personal experience with this, but from friends and siblings who have had kids recently, 5 days is a really short time to anticipate and prepare for the birth of a child.

But we have been preparing for Jesus’ birth throughout this Advent and throughout the year. For we are not just preparing for his birth, because really that happened over 2000 years ago, but we are preparing our hearts and minds for Jesus to enter in and for Jesus to come again. We are constantly preparing, learning and experiencing how we can better know, love and praise God.

And Mary, in her heart felt song of praise, in her willingness to be a servant of the Lord, is an excellent example of how to do just that. When Martin Luther explained Mary’s song of praise, the magnificat, he uses these words to describe how we can all learn from Mary. “Here, the tender mother of Christ teaches us, with her words and by the example of her experiences, how to know, love and praise God.”

But how hard this must have been for Mary. She was an unwed teenager who was just told by an angel that she was going to have a child though she was a virgin. Unwed pregnant women we often stoned to death for committing adultery. Though Mary has traditionally been depicted as a daughter of a priest, and if that was true she would have been burned to death instead of stoned for being pregnant out of wedlock.

But Mary doesn’t think about the consequences of her pregnancy. After her initial fear of the angel, she doesn’t run or turn away or reject the news or ask why her. Instead she does as God has called her to do. She accepts that she is a servant of the Lord, and even rejoices at the news. She knows that she has been chosen, that she has been blessed by this news that other might dismay.

And there is Elizabeth, an old barren woman, (realistically, she was could have been as young as me, but in her era when you were married as a young teenager, making to 28 without having children would have made you considered barren). Anyway here is Elizabeth, also pregnant, when no one thought it was possible, after she had gone for years without children, and instead of turning from Mary for being full of disgrace, instead of disowning her, or even warning her to flee for her life, instead of all the things Elizabeth could have done to Mary, the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaped and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. She loves and accepts Mary. She feels blessed and honored to be visited by her and knows that Mary is not only pregnant but also that she is pregnant with the Christ child.

So what does this have to do with us? I mean other than Mary was the mother of Jesus who grew up to not only teach, preach and heal in the name of God but also died on a cross for our sins and rose from the dead.

Well most of you know by now that this Advent I have been talking about Advent Conspiracy and their four tenets: Worship Fully, Give More, Spend Less and Love All. Thus far we have discussed each of them except Love All. In some ways this seems like it is an easy one right? I mean of course we love everyone. But if we are honest with ourselves love is the hardest of them all.

We are not always acceptable, we are not always perfect, we screw up, we do not always conform to society’s standards of what is appropriate. We sin against God, we sin against others, we hurt others by our thoughts, words and deeds, by what we have done and what we have left undone and sometimes we do not deserve it when others love us.

We sometimes run from God, we turn away from what God is calling, asking, us to do, we ask why, we complain, we reject God’s call. We ignore God, we are too frighten, perplexed, troubled, disturbed and confused by what God wants us to do that we fail to love God and fail to love others.

Sure we do not show love to strangers but we also do not show love to many people who are family members or once friends. Be honest: how many of you are dreading seeing a particular aunt, uncle, cousin, sibling, parent or child this Christmas or are grateful that you do not have to see them? We fail to love relatives and sometimes we fail to love those who we once loved more anyone else, whether that plays out in getting a divorce, disowning siblings, children or parents, or even just the generic continuing to tolerate and live with the person but no longer having any loving feelings for them.

In an interview on Thanksgiving, Robin Williams stated “Thanksgiving is the holiday that makes us grateful that we don’t live near our family during the rest of the year.” Can’t that be true on Christmas as well? Christmas can be hard on children of divorce, not wanting to offend either parent by choosing one parent’s Christmas celebration over another. Christmas can be hard of married couples, not wanting to choose one spouses traditions over another. These choices are hard because to some people they can be interpreted that they love one person or family more than another.

But we can strive to love all. We can strive to love the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked, the sick, the marginalized. In fact those people are often easier to love than our relatives. By donating toys to St. Luke’s Life Works or Toys for Tots and money to the Salvation Army or other charities you are showing love, God’s love and your own, for others. By accepting people for where they are at, for not allowing that person to get under your skin this Christmas, by being gracious, you are showing love, God’s love and your own to others.

See we don’t always deserve to be loved. I think we can all think of multiple examples of times that we have hurt another, but yet God still loves us. God still accepts us. Just as Elizabeth love and accepted Mary, before she even knew Mary’s story, God accepts and loves us. God’s love is given to us through the healing waters of baptism. God’s love is given to us through the bread and wine of communion. God’s love is given to us through Jesus’ death on the cross. God’s love was given to us through the pregnancy of an unwed teenager 2000 years ago, God’s love was given to us through the birth of Jesus Christ, which we will celebrate in a few days, and God love will be given to us when Jesus comes again someday. For even if we do not always deserve it, God loves us!

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