Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hope in Skin RUMC 9/28/14

Hope in Skin
Story chapter 22a
Did you hear that?  Where is the humble Jesus, meek and mild?
This isn’t the Christmas story is it? Where is the sweet little baby cuddled in his mother’s arms? Where are the humble beginnings of the manger and the stable? Where are the shepherds and the wise men? Where is everyone’s favorite villain, the innkeeper?
That scripture passage can’t be in the Christmas story that we know, can it?

Of course it is. It is right there in Luke Chapter 1, New Testament page 57 of your pew bibles. It is right between the story of the frightened, confused, pregnant 14-year-old Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth, and the decree from Cesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.
Unfortunately, the Magnificat… (That’s what this poem is called because the first word in the Latin translation of this passage.) Unfortunately, the Magnificat is not part of the Christmas story included in our Christmas pageants, or on Christmas cards. I say unfortunately, because of all the texts of the Christmas story, the Magnificat alone reveals the truly, radically revolutionary nature of Christmas. We don’t normally think of Christmas as radical or revolutionary, usually we use words like exhausting and busy. But Christmas is the most radical and revolutionary event in all of history. You might argue that the cross is more important, but without Christmas, the cross is just the execution of another political agitant.

Remember, in the Old Testament portion of the story last year we talked about God’s upper story, God’s deepest intention for humanity. God’s plan was for us to live in love with God and love toward one another. In the Garden of Eden, God envisioned a community of caring, generous, forgiving, grace filled, hope filled, people living in the beauty of the garden and walking with God in the coolness of the morning. God’s plan revolved around love and worship.
Is that the way the lower story worked? Is that what actually happened in the Old Testament story? Although there were glimpses of that plan in the lower story, most of the lower story- what we call history, was NOT what God wanted. Sin invaded the world, and with sin came death and deceit, murder and manipulation, slavery and selfishness. You know how people treat one another in our lower story, and it is not what God wants for us.
Throughout the Old Testament, we followed the two stories: God’s upper story, and our lower story. I don’t know how it seemed to you, but by time we were done, it seemed to me like the two stories were further apart than ever.

Today, however, everything changes.
The angel coming… that is old news. We have seen angels before.
The young girl… that’s old news. We have seen God chose unlikely candidates before.
The baby… that is something different… never before has God become a human being.
God spoke to people, commanded people, God directed people, God led people, God appeared in dreams, God was manifest in miracles and prophets:
·         But never ever before has the most divine God become a human being. Never before has God put on skin and moved in to a young woman’s uterus.
·         Never before has God been born as one of us, to live among us.
·         Never before has God taken hold of his upper story and our lower story and tied them in a knot as he did in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
·         Never before has God’s upper story come crashing into our lower story in order to radically and permanently transform the relationship between creator and creation.

That is what Mary is singing about in the Magnificat. Usually when we hear these words put to music, they are with a harp or a flute and they are soft, and melodic, and beautiful like a lullaby. Just once I would like to hear the magnificat sung to banging drums and crashing symbols. Really, the Magnificat is more a march than a lullaby.
Listen to the chorus, 
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.
You can almost hear the cymbals crashing and the drums beating with every word
I tell you this is not your sweet little baby lying in a manger surrounded by a mysterious glow with silent night playing in the background. 
·         This is the God of all creation, the God who
o   spoke the stars into existence with a word, and
o   started the ocean waves rolling with a touch of his finger.
·         This is the God who kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden,
o   brought fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, and
o   poured out the waters of the flood. 
·         This is the God who raised up Joseph to be a ruler in Egypt, and
o   Moses to lead his people out from among the dead in Egypt.
·         This is the God who parted the sea and
o   spoke the commandments.
·         This is the God who battled the Amorites and the Philistines in fierce battle.
·         This is the God who raised up kings and brought them down again.
·         This is the God who spoke judgment and justice through the prophets.
·         This is the God who held the mouth of the lion shut for Daniel, and
o   opened the mouth of the Persian king to free the captives.
·         This is the God of the heavens and the earth bringing heaven down to earth in the shape of a baby whose cry in the manger and on the cross would change the world forever.

Is it changed? Is our world really that much different from the world of the Old Testament? We still have sin. We still have death and deceit, murder and manipulation, slavery and selfishness. You know how our world is. In some ways, nothing has changed, but in the most important way, everything is different because of the Christmas revolution.
·         We talk about the American Revolution, and how it changed history forever.
·         We talk about the industrial revolution, and how it changed our lives forever.
·         We talk about the technology revolution, and how it has changed our thinking and expanded out knowledge.
But today we talk about the Christmas revolution, and how our lower story lives will never the same because the upper story has come crashing into our lives in Jesus Christ and now we have HOPE.
The world may look the same but now we have hope.
The world may act the same, but now we have hope.
People may sin the same, but now we have hope.
No matter what the newspapers may say, hope makes the world a different place and makes us different people.

A public elementary school was cautious about bringing religion into their winter program. They had a nice little program scheduled, and the content centered around family, friends, and fun times during the holidays -- all of which are good things, but none of which are the reason we have Christmas. The program was called "Christmas Love." For the grand finale, a line of kids was supposed to march across the stage with pieces of poster board spelling out the words "Christmas Love." Their backs were turned to the audience, and at the exact right moment, they were supposed to turn around to spell the words with the letters on their poster board. Moms were backstage to make sure they marched out in the right order, but once they got on stage, they were on their own. Sure enough, one little girl holding the "M" in "Christmas" got her sign turned upside down. So when the big moment came, and the kids turned around, and what the audience saw was not "CHRISTMAS LOVE" but "CHRIST WAS LOVE." Without meaning to, the elementary students had communicated the hope of Christmas[1]

What was hope in the Old Testament? 
·         Hope in their ability to follow the law?
·         Hope that they were good enough for God?
·         Hope that God would give them a little longer to get their act together?  
Let me tell you, hope that lies in the hope that I’ll get my act together is not hope. No, the Christmas revolution brought humanity a different kind of hope. 
The hope of Christmas is that CHRIST WAS LOVE. 
Now in Jesus Christ God’s love lives among us in the skin. 
In your skin and my skin.
In your heart and my heart.
Max Lucado puts it this way. Jesus, the maker of the universe, the one who invented time, the one who gave you the breath you just took, the one who owns everything, started off humble. How humble? Humble enough to understand what you’ve been through this week. Humble enough to understand what kept you awake. Humble enough to say, “I know what that’s like.” Humble enough that when an immigrant from Ethiopia prays or a squatter in Brazil offers a plea for help, that the Almighty God does not shake his head and say, “I wish they’d get their act together.” But he remembers the pain of a hungry belly and the chill of a cold night. He knows what it’s like to hear his parents tell the story of the day they got turned away on the night of his birth. [2]

He remembers…and loves.
He remembers…our ………. <<<<<>>>>>> and love brings a revolution.
He remembers…our ……….<<<<<>>>>>> and love brings a revolution.
He is our Hope… hope in skin. AMEN

[1] From a sermon: “The Announcement of Salvation” by Bud Reeves; 12/5/2004

[2] No source provided, copied from “Sermon features” for THE STORY.

No comments:

Post a Comment