The hymn It is Well with My Soul speaks to a deep peace and understanding of what it means to be a beloved child of God. The feeling conveyed by this hymn brings to mind the reaction of Mary, when she learned the news that she would give birth to the Messiah, Emmanuel, God with Us. In Mary’s story we find an incredible amount of grace and trust, even though she has received unsettling news she respongs positively by trusting God.
Scripture: Luke 1: 26-38
Advent Living Room Week IV – Love
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As we approach Christmas the question I might ask is how are you doing? No, I mean it, how are you doing?
It’s a question I wish I could ask in person, both during this sermon and then again after the service. That we could each take a moment and I could ask ‘how are you doing?’ and we would take a few minutes each of us to share just how we are doing these days.
Prof. Cameron Howard says, “that I’m fine – but not fine like 2019.” I think that’s an apt way to put it. 2020 has been an off-putting year and that’s probably putting it mildly. Howard continues with her analogy about being fine, she writes:
“I’m fine like Olaf the snowman is fine when he walks alone through the enchanted forest in the Disney movie Frozen 2. All sorts of strange things are happening around him: leaves pick him up and drop him, giant boulders roll toward him, and he feels like he is being spied on or even pursued.
“As he walks, Olaf reassures himself: “This is fine.” “This is normal. This will all make sense when I am older!” Though he has no injuries, he’s not exactly “fine.” He’s alone and confused and afraid! Nevertheless, if he’s going to make it to the other side of the forest, he has to keep putting one snowy foot in front of the other. As the saying goes, the only way out is through.”
We are now in our ninth month of holding worship services online. Of pre-recording services and making them available to you. I long for the familiar, to be able to connect with each of you and it saddens me that we are unable to do so. These are troubling and difficult times.
Advent is a season of preparation and expectation, but I fear many of us are so tired that we are unable to adequately prepare. Or perhaps I should say, our preparation looks different than it has in previous years. The first Sunday of Advent we light the candle of Hope and hope is the theme that drives us towards Christmas. The hope that is embodied in the Christ child, the hope that is inherent in the season, the hope we place in humanity, and the hope we have for the world.
We do have things to be hopeful for. I know that each of you, though these past nine months have been difficult, have reasons to be hopeful. Still it looks different than it has in previous years and somewhere deep in our soul things aren’t settled the way they have been in previous years. Though there is a light ahead, we are still living through a difficult time. I might say things are troubling.
As I write and prepare for this service, I am of course already thinking ahead to Christmas Eve. What should that message look like? In the past Christmas has been easy, this year it is difficult and troubling. I take heart knowing that Mary was also perplexed by the news.
Of course, Mary didn’t call it Christmas. But she was troubled by the news that the angels gave her, that she would bear a son and of all the promise that was built into who he was. Emmanuel, God with us, that his kingdom would have no end.
That would be a lot to take in. I think a message like that would shake me to my core. A range of questions would come to my lips most of them starting with how and why. In fact, I imagine the question of ‘why me’ might be the most often one I’d ask were I in Mary’s shoes.
We are reminded of two things as this news is shared with Mary. The first comes from the closing words of the angel, ‘for nothing will be impossible with God.’ These are words that reassure us that despite every notion to the opposite God is still in control. It does not mean that God wishes disease and death upon us, God’s purposes deal with the wholeness of all creation. When we suffer, hurt and die God’s heart breaks along with us, why else become flesh and walk among us.
When we come together as community, as a people united in purpose that is where we see God the clearest. I believe that God desires a close relationship with us, with all of humanity. God reaches out to us and asks us to stretch out to God.
The second is Mary’s final reaction to the news. “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Mary chooses to trust God. To agree with the angel that nothing is impossible with God. To believe in the promise of the child that she would deliver. To place her hope in the birth of her child.
It really is extraordinary. I would probably still be asking why me? But Mary accepts it.
God choses to be with Mary and Mary choses to be with God. That is a message worth remembering. That God desires to have a relationship with us, that we might also desire to have a relationship with God. That this relationship be personal and communal, because we are all in this together. And if that is the case, then I think everything will work out fine. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security.
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