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Sermon December 20, 2020

There was a man who had worked all his life, had saved all of his money, and was a real "miser" when it came to his money.  You might say that he was the ultimate hoarder. Just before he died, he said to his wife..."When I die, I want you to take all my money and put it in the casket with me. I want to take my money to the afterlife with me."  And so he got his wife to promise him, with all of her heart, that when he died, she would put all of the money into the casket with him.

Well, he died. He was stretched out in the casket, his wife was sitting there - dressed in black, and her friend was sitting next to her. When they finished the ceremony, and just before the undertakers got ready to close the casket, the wife said, "Wait just a moment!"  She had a small metal box with her; she came over with the box and put it in the casket. Then the undertakers locked the casket down and they rolled it away. So her friend said, “I know you were not fool enough to put all that money in there with your husband."  The loyal wife replied, "Listen, I cannot go back on my word. I promised him that I was going to put that money into the casket with him."  You mean to tell me you put that money in the casket with him!?!?!?"  "I sure did," said the wife. "I got it all together, put it into my account, and wrote him a check.... If he can cash it, then he can spend it.”  I suppose you could say that the wife fulfilled her promise and obeyed her husband’s request, but perhaps not exactly the way that he meant for her to do so.

In today’s Scripture, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.  God has and will keep the promise to be with us always.  God will love each and every one of us.  In response, we are faithful to God.  We choose to obey God’s wishes. The story about David in the book of 2 Samuel is an example of faith and trust.   God lived up to the promise to watch over the Hebrew people.  God cared for David, took him out of the farm, helped him to become king, provided a country and a house for David.  We know that King David made many mistakes and sinned.  But he always was faithful to God.  As a faithful servant, David wanted to provide a permanent house for the Ark of the Covenant.  But God was not looking for a physical space.  God wanted the people to offer praise and glory, to follow his commands.  So, King David listened to the prophet Nathan and did not build a shrine to God.  The Ark remained in the tent.  David was God’s obedient servant.David wanted a house for God.  God wanted a home for God’s people.  It reminds me of the Christmas song, I’ll be home for Christmas”  The singer did not want to arrive at a particular place but rather wanted to see some special people.  Everyone is important to God.  God welcomes us home when we respond to his faithfulness with our own faith in God.

The psalm also relates the story of God’s promise, “I am persuaded that your love is established for ever; you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.”  The words may have been written originally about the reign of King David, but they speak to us as well.  As we wait for the coming of Jesus one more time, let us not forget that God is always with us.  We have reached the point where we cannot wait for the vaccine to be distributed to all people.  Let us be comforted as we wait by the presence of God in our lives.  God is faithful to us, let us be faithful to God.  Let us respond with the words of the Psalm, “My faithfulness and love shall be with him”.

Today, I am thankful for the gospel of Luke.  For Luke told stories about what happened before Jesus was born.  In the telling of these stories we hear of God’s gifts to the people and incredible journeys of faith and trust and obedience to God’s wishes. Luke told us about Elizabeth and Zechariah.  They were both faithful to God.  Zechariah was surprised when an angel appeared and told him that he would have a son.  He was so surprised that at first he did not believe.  The angel told him he would be unable to speak because of his doubt.  Later, after his son was born and they brought him to be circumcised, the couple planned to name the child Zechariah after his father, but Elizabeth said he would be called John.  When Zechariah wrote that his name was John, he received his voice back.  That is when Luke shared the proclamation of Zechariah, praising God, predicting the birth of a mighty savior and foretelling that John would be the prophet of the most high.  Trust in God brought a son.  Elizabeth’s faith gave the child the name John and Zechariah demonstrated obedience. 

Luke also tells us about the visit of the Angel Gabriel to tell Mary that she will bear a son.  At first, Mary is afraid that she has received such a visit and she is uncertain how it is possible that she will bear a son.  But after all is explained to her she accepts the word of God that has been given to her.  “Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  I think about so many important figures in Scripture who responded to God’s call with statements like I am not good enough or I couldn’t do that.  Not Mary.  How quickly she accepted.  Her faith was strong.  Her trust was complete.  Her obedience was total.  This is not a half-hearted statement.  It doesn’t come out like OK if you say so.  No, it is a positive acceptance.  Yes, I am ready and I will do what you have asked. 

A group of us are using a book called “Come Thou Long expected Jesus” as our Advent study.  We talk about our yearning for Jesus to come.  This week, as we reflected on the angel’s visit, we were reminded that Mary had a choice.  God gave Mary free will and God will respect human freedom.  The author of our book wrote about the universal desire for God to come.  “All creation groaned for this moment and now awaits the virgin’s response” he wrote.  When Mary said yes, great joy broke out.  Even now, we are thankful that Jesus will come. 

This passage about Mary is also about God.  “God is here portrayed as a God of grace and power.”  Grace fills the story because God is sending a gift to the world.  Gift is the correct word because all of the conditions of human action and achievement are absent.  We remember the Scripture passage, “This is the Lord’s doing”.  We realize just as Mary stated, “Nothing is impossible with God. 

Some think about faith as a set of beliefs or a group understanding about how we experience God.  But our book study group spoke about faith as personal and intimate.  It is about our own individual relationship with God.  When faith is a personal thing, we realize that trust in God is not just about the big things.  Obedience to God is not about letting go of the so called “Big” sins.  It is about what we do every day.  Each day we have the chance to show our obedience.

Today, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, we lit the candle of Love.  We anticipate the coming of Jesus.  It is so close.  We have waited for a while now.  We know that Jesus came to be among us as a sign of God’s love.  And Jesus loved us and gave himself for us.  God is faithful to us.  God has given us grace and mercy.  And God can be relied on to be with us always.  It is out of this love from God that we are able to respond with faith and trust and obedience.  It is in response to God’s faithfulness that we are faithful. 

C.S.Lewis said it this way, “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a sunhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.”  We have only a few days before Christmas.  On Christmas day, we remember that God fulfilled a promise and sent his son, the Messiah, to earth.  It was and is a gift of love.  Let us be thankful for that gift and prepare ourselves for his coming with our faith and obedience.  Amen.  

 

 

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