Saturday, December 22, 2012

Just Say 'Yes'!

Advent 4C
23 December 2012

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC

Propers:  Micah 5.2-4; Psalm 80.1-7; Hebrews 10.5-10; Luke 1.39-55

For an audio file of the Sermon as preached at the 10.00 a.m. Eucharist please click here.

As businesses prepare us for the Christmas season of buying and wish-fulfillment, we are surrounded by images of Mary, Joseph and the Christ-child.  But there are other stories that are key to the story of Bethlehem that the commercial world finds uninteresting.

In today’s gospel we hear told the story of Mary’s visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also expecting the birth of her first child.  Both Mary and Elizabeth are women who have said ‘yes’ to God’s invitation to be part of God’s on-going story, the story of how God invites men and women to participate with God in the healing of creation, the restoration of creation to its proper and intended relationship with God.

Let’s think of Elizabeth and Zechariah for a moment.  They are childless and, given Zechariah’s role as a priest, this is a catastrophe.  In the culture of the time Zechariah would have every reason to divorce Elizabeth in order to marry another woman who might bear him a son.  But, for whatever reason, Zechariah does not do this and the couple prepares themselves for the ending of their days without a child.

Then God, through an angel, speaks to Zechariah and promises that he and his wife will have a child.  As impossible as this seems, Zechariah returns home and within a short time a child is conceived.  Yet there is no ‘happy’ ending to this story.  Zechariah and Elizabeth know that their child, John, will be dedicated to the Lord, celibate and will be the messenger of the one who is to come.  They realize that they are part of a story that God began in creation and that has not yet reached its conclusion.  By saying ‘yes’ to God, they have agreed to a supporting role in what God is doing, even if that means their own dreams may not be realized as they had hoped when they were younger.

Throughout Advent the church’s message to its people through the Scriptures has been this:  Say ‘yes’ to God.  Say ‘yes’ to participating in God’s work of reconciliation and life.  But how will we know that we are saying ‘yes’ to God rather than a figment of our imagination.

  • If you and I feel drawn to deepen our commitment to prayer and to study, then it is very likely that the voice we hear is God’s.  Just say ‘yes’.
  • If you and I feel drawn to resist an evil in our personal lives, in our families or in our communities, then it is very likely that the voice we hear is God’s.  Just say ‘yes’.
  • If you and I feel drawn to share our faith with another person, to share why we are Christians, then it is very likely that the voice we hear is God’s.  Just say ‘yes’.
  • If you and I are invited to serve our communities and neighbours in new ways, then it is very likely that the voice we hear is God’s.  Just say ‘yes’.
  • If you and I are being awakened to a new way of upholding the dignity of every human being and the integrity of creation, then it is very likely that the voice we hear is God’s.  Just say ‘yes’.

Every day and every moment God is speaking to each and every one of us, just as God spoke to Zechariah and Elizabeth, just as God spoke to Joseph and Mary.  Sometimes God speak to us through the Scriptures.  Sometimes God’s voice is that of a friend or a family member or a trusted advisor.  Sometimes the divine voice speaks through literature or film or music.  But God speaks and then leans forward, hand cupping ear, to await our response.  Just say ‘yes’.

Are there risks to saying ‘yes’?  Yes, there are risks.  We risk being caught up in a story that is not entirely of our making, a story that has many more chapters to go.  But it is the only story worth telling and the only story worth living.  It is the story of an ancient love that is found in every human heart, an ancient love that breaks down barriers and creates life, even in the darkness of the soul’s winter.

Recently one of my former students sent a Christmas card with a poem by Dom Helder Camara, a Brazilian Roman Catholic theologian.

In the middle of the night
when stark night was darkest,
then you chose to come.

God’s resplendent first-born
sent to make us one.

The voice of doom protests:
“All these words about justice,
love and peace ---
all these naïve words
will buckle beneath the weigh of a reality
which is brutal and bitter; ever more bitter.”

It is true, Lord, it is midnight upon the earth,
moonless night and starved of stars.
But can we forget the you,
the Son of God,
chose to be born precisely at midnight?

When we say ‘yes’ to God, light shines in the darkness and the glory of God shines round about us.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

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