Date: Dec.21/97 Where: SHMC Words:
Sermon Title: Upside Down Christmas
Text: Luke 1:39-55
Major Recent Event: 4thAdvent
Worship Leader: Ed Martens
Scripture Reading: Doris Thiessen
Own "life story" connection:
Name my feelings and congregation's feelings about our past actions.
When we read the Song of Mary, we sometimes tend to spiritualize the context. We see Mary as a mature young lady, who has been chosen by God to bear His Son. And we sometimes read the Magnificat as a feel-good devotional.
When I read the story of the Birth Announcement, and how Mary erupts into a song of Joy, I see a person who has experienced a great deal of disappointment in her life. The people of Israel had waited long for the promised Messiah. Now, the prophetic voice of God had been silent for four hundred years.
When we gloss over the oppressed lives of the people of God in those times, we miss the full impact of the Song of Mary.
Tell a personal story
Christmas is often a time when our world is set right again. I remember one Christmas when I was a teenager growing up. I had begged my parents long and hard that they would loan me some money to buy my own motorcycle – but they would have nothing to do with it. “Motorcycles are too dangerous. You’re too young for your own bike… and on and on they went with good reasons for not letting me borrow the money.”
I was profoundly disappointed. Most of my friends had their motorcycles, and I still had to ride in the back seat to church. For me, that was the height of injustice. I was sure that my parents were after my life, or something.
Then came Christmas morning. Totally unsuspecting I walked into the living room… and there it was. A spanking new Honda 90 ( a beef-homa). Yes! My whole life was set right again. There is a God after all, I thought.
I couldn’t contain my joy. I had to show my new bike to my friends.
and shift the focus back to the congregation. (Experience the law/judgment)
Have you ever found yourself in an impossible situation? Maybe you were disappointed over a fight with a good friend or family member… Maybe you faced the prospects of being laid of from work… Maybe you were picked on by other kids at school… Maybe you knew that your life was a mess, and at times there seemed to be no other way except to run away from your problems… or worse, you thought about ending it all… Maybe you are one among the countless and forgotten people who go through times of intense depression because of their life circumstances.
Maybe you are here today, hoping to get some answers to the endless questions about your upside down world.
Introduce major concern of text or major concern of sermon. (Use transposition to help communicate the thrust. Stating the good news early helps them to listen).
The people of Israel were walking in the darkness of despair and confusion for ages. The prophets had made promises… After all, they were the chosen people of God… Now they were silent…
God seemed to have forgotten them. God didn’t seem to care that Herod and the Roman authorities were oppressing His people. Even the religious leaders, the Pharisees and Scribes, had turned against their own people in favor of personal gain. There was little hope, if any, that Israel would ever become an independent state.
In the midst of all this confusion we sense God’s smile of hopefulness and new life. The words to the prophet Isaiah all of a sudden have a brand new meaning: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (7:14).
In the proclamation of the angel to Mary there is Hope. In God’s Word of grace to you and me today there is hope that God will make things right when we trust Him to take control of our life, as Mary trusted God.
Issue for today.
When God enters our world, in the Incarnation, in the baby at Bethlehem, our world is set right side up. God enters our world of confusion, fear, uncertainty about the future, and uncertainty about our faith. The Eternal God opens a whole new understanding for us, which compels us to break out in a Song of Joy.
Entry of the biblical text. (Background of text).
Mention difficult issues in passing to produce a subliminal effect. (Name further what might be our issues on the day).
When I re-read the Scripture Text again after the rest of the family had gone to sleep, it played all kinds of tricks on my imagination. After a while I was left with one clear impression. Maybe I’m way out to lunch here, but I get a distinct feeling that God loves impossibilities! Not only that; God also has a hilarious sense of humor.
Try to imagine yourself in the shoes of Mary, a young teenage girl… barely old enough to look at boys… She was engaged to be married to Joseph. Girls, in Bible times, were anywhere from 12 –15 years of age when they got married. Now, one day, while doing the chores around the house, she was stopped in her tracks by an angel who has a disturbing message for her: “Hi there, Mary. Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you. 31 You will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. “Say that again mister… I haven’t even held hands with Joseph. I’m not the kind of girl to fool around. What are you talking about?"
35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. "
I don’t know about you… but I think that the Gospel writers left out a big part of a very interesting discussion between the Angel and the Virgin Mary. We can only imagine that Mary found herself in a really difficult spot.
Imagine her disappointment. Mary’s dream of a normal life with her prince charming vanished in thin air. Her dream of building a home in a quiet neighborhood, and planting a rose garden by the picket fence, all of a sudden blasted into pieces. Her hopes for a normal life were turned upside down in an instant.
Time to shift into Good News - link phrase at reversal point. (Major concern of text.
- The Bible is full of Stories where people’s lives have been turned “upside down”, or better said, “right side up”. It’s as if God, with a tap on the shoulder says: “You’re it! I will unfold my plan of Salvation through you.”
I can’t help but think about how much fun God must have had, when a speechless Zechariah brings his aged wife into the Maternity ward. Imagine this sweet little old lady, giggling with glee, as she says to her husband: “Don’t you faint on me now, honey. I need you to coach me with the breathing exercises.”
I imagine that God really enjoyed himself when He turned the lives of these people upside down.
You see, Mary and Elizabeth were both women, at the bottom of society. Their lives were anything but a nice and easy life. They felt the pain and disappointment of social and political oppression. They were longing for some peace and stability in their lives.
And suddenly, God breaks into their darkness and despair to set their lives right side up. God selected these women to play a part in the divine drama of reconciliation and forgiveness of sins. God made them partners in the fulfillment of His purpose for the world.
Is it any surprise that Mary breaks out in a Song of Joy? She lifts her voice in praise to a gracious God who turns hopeless lives right side up.
46 And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me -- holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 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. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”
Major concern of sermon. Raise difficult issues in an invitational, Good News way).
In the Bible, Christmas was that time when everything was turned rights side up for the people who were waiting for God’s intervention in their lives. Christmas is about what happened to Mary, an unsuspecting teenager, and an unwed mother. It’s about the cry for help of a woman – no, a child - at the Crisis Pregnancy line. It’s about the bum on Main Street whose Welfare check is long used up. Christmas is about the father who oversteps the boundaries with His child, and the Parent who screams at her child in frustration.
Develop major concern of the text.
Develop major concern of the sermon (stories).
Christmas is about God’s offer to turn your and my world right side up. It’s about the gift of unconditional love and grace that surpasses our understanding.
The amazing thing is that this message did not come through the official channels, sanctioned by the church and the government. It was delivered in song by the angels to group of shepherds working the night shift in the cold fields of Bethlehem
Mention the Christ-event.
God sent the Savior, born into a world of disappointment, pain, resignation and fear. Born into Mary’s world. Born into your world. And born into my world.
Invite and encourage the congregation to further action. (Recognize past faithfulness)
And, just like Mary and Elizabeth, God has tapped you and me on the shoulder. As a congregation we have heard His call to reconciliation and forgiveness in many ways. And many of us have responded to God’s invitation by taking a risk like Mary and Elizabeth. Faith in God’s gracious plan for our lives is a risk that will turn our normal world upside down in many ways. But, it is in trusting the Word of God and doing His will that our world will be turned right side up.
Return to the opening remarks.
Come to think of it, God is probably already amusing Himself with plans of shaking our Church community out of our comfort zone. I wonder with anticipation about the surprises that He has in store for you and me. I, for one, can’t wait to see, who will be the next one from our rows to break out into a song :
"My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”