Sunday’s sermon: Gifts from the Heart

from the heart

Texts used – Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 1:26-38

  • So here we are on the last Sunday of Advent … the last Sunday before we celebrate the birth of the Christ child … the end of our Advent journey, and the end of our Advent story.
    • Series this year: The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston[1] → story so far
      • Met Ruthie, Papa, and Mama
      • Setting: Appalachia at the end of WWI
      • Began in spring when Ruthie and her papa picked out the perfect balsam fir for the village church’s Christmas tree
      • Papa gets called away to fight in WWI → doesn’t return home with all the other village men like he said he would → left Mama and Ruthie to make ends meet in lots of different ways, including harvesting and providing the Christmas tree for the church on their own in the dead of night
      • Because it’s her family’s turn to provide the tree, Ruthie also gets the honor of being the heavenly angel in the church Christmas pageant
        • Asks Mama for a new dress with long, flowy sleeves to look like angel wings → Mama sacrifices her wedding dress and the silk stockings Papa sent her from Europe to create the dress for Ruthie as well as a little doll with a dress to match and coal-black curls, just like Ruthie’s
    • And as we’ve walked through Ruthie’s story, we’ve also talked about some Advent themes.
      • 1st week: waiting → both the challenge and blessing of waiting
        • Ruthie and Mama: waiting for Papa
        • Advent: waiting for the birth of the Christ child and for Christ’s return
      • Last week: giving → not about what we give but about the sacrifice and generosity of giving in and of itself
        • Ruthie and Mama: giving the tree to the church and Mama making the dress for Ruthie from her wedding dress
        • Advent: glorious gift of Christ
          • Hope
          • Peace
          • Salvation
    • This week, we’re going to build on that idea of giving by talking more about those gifts and where come from.
  • Start with the story → READ PP. 24-30
  • Last week – talked about the attitude of the giving
    • Generosity vs. obligation
  • Today – talk about gifts themselves → the nature of the gifts
    • Gifts in the story: perfect balsam Christmas tree, angel doll, Papa coming home → None of these gifts are big or extravagant. None of them cost a lot of money. They don’t come with gift receipts or upgrade packages or 3-year service plans. There is nothing flashy or fancy about these gifts, but that doesn’t matter. They are priceless exactly because they are what they are. They are priceless because they come from the heart.
      • Simple
      • Gifts of love
      • Gifts that make someone’s day or life better
        • Perfect Christmas tree = made everyone’s celebration that Christmas a little bit better/brighter/merrier
        • Angel doll = made Ruthie’s Christmas a little bit merrier – book: At last it was time to call the names on the presents tied to the tree. Every child in the church received a present. Everyone, that is, except Ruthie. A tear slipped down into the dimple in her cheek. Then one of the kings reached to the tip-tip-top of the perfect balsam Christmas tree. He lifted the tiny angel down. “Why, Ruthie,” said old St. Nick, “this tiny angel looks just like you.” … Ruthie hugged the tiny angel and kissed its silky cheek, which felt just like the silk stockings Papa had sent to Mama.[2]
        • Obvious one – Papa coming home
          • Certainly Mama and Ruthie couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present, even one that cost a fortune
          • Papa coming home definitely made Mama and Ruthie’s Christmas – and lives! – better
          • Ruthie’s prayer from earlier – book: Every night Mama tucked Ruthie into her little bed and listened as she said the same prayer. “Please send my papa home for Christmas,” Ruthie whispered. “And please have old St. Nicholas bring me a doll with a beautiful dress, the color of cream, all trimmed with ribbons and lace.”[3]
  • Scripture readings for this morning touch on this, too – just how powerful simplicity, love, and compassion truly are → how powerful gifts from the heart can be
    • OT passage from Micah makes it clear that the one coming – the gift of the Messiah – will not come from a flashy, prestigious, politically important place but from a little nothing of a town – text: As for you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, though you are the least significant of Judah’s forces, one who is to be a ruler in Israel on my behalf will come out from you. His origin is from remote times, from ancient days. … He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. … he will become one of peace.[4]
      • Context of Micah : 8th century BCE (~mid 700s) → important because the first half of the 8th saw prosperity and relative peace for the Israelites, but the second half brought great hardships
        • Scholar: A succession of short and unsuccessful kingships, foolhardy efforts at rebellion, and the resurgence of Assyrian power in the region led to the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital city, Samaria, in 722 BCE. … Into this time of great change, when the fortunes of God’s people had already declined and promised to get even worse, Micah stepped forward to provide a theological interpretation of crucial events facing the nation and its people.[5]
      • So even in the face of that hardship and challenge, Micah makes it clear that the One coming – the Messiah – is coming for glory, yes, but God’s glory, not the Messiah’s own glory
        • Coming to be a gift of peace
        • Coming to be a gift of compassion
        • Think of it this way. Micah refers to the One Who is to Come as a shepherd. Shepherds are not exactly the picture of overpowering strength and illustrious authority. Shepherds are quiet, unassuming protectors and guides. They move their flocks from place to place and keep them safe. And yet this is the image that God gave Micah for the coming Messiah – not an all-powerful king adorned in gold and jewels upon a mighty throne, but a shepherd with a flock.
          • Does not mean that the coming Messiah will not be great – references both to Bethlehem and a shepherd in this passage harken back to King David, Israel’s most beloved king = inference that this Coming One will indeed be great
        • Speaking of Micah, Kathryn Schifferdecker, professor at Luther Seminary: The insignificant are exalted. The tables are turned, and the most unlikely of people are instruments of God’s salvation. From this insignificant little village, a young shepherd boy grows up to become the most beloved king in Israel’s history. And a descendant of that king fulfills God’s long-awaited promises of deliverance, not just for Israel, but for the whole world. It is not the way of the world, this exaltation of the lowliest. But it is the way God works, over and over and over again.[6]
    • NT passage makes 2 things abundantly clear: 1) that the gift of the Messiah is one from God’s own heart, and 2) that this gift will be utterly transformative – text: When the angel came to [Mary], he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High.”[7]
      • Gift from God’s heart → evident in Gr.
        • “favored one” = blessed, chosen
        • Gabriel: “God is honoring you,” literal transl.: “God has found honor with you” – honor = graciousness, gratitude, good will → The most common translation of this word throughout the New Testament is ‘’ So the angel Gabriel is informing Mary that God is both giving her grace and giving the world grace through her in this encounter.
      • And it is in this giving of grace that we see just how transformative this gift is and will be.
        • Transformative for Mary = kind of obvious → Babies change your life. Even ordinary babies alter your life … everything about your life: your schedule, your routines, your priorities, your traditions, your sleep cycle. But this baby that Mary is told she will be carrying is no ordinary baby. This is the Son of God. In a heartbeat, Mary goes from a typical girl engaged to be married to the Mother of Salvation Incarnate. This baby will change more than Mary’s life … more than Joseph’s life. This baby will change all our lives.
          • Karoline Lewis, another professor at Luther Seminary: In only three short verses, [Mary goes] from peasant girl to prophet, from Mary to mother of God, from to denial to discipleship. In a very real way, this is the appropriate transition from Advent to Christmas. Mary’s story moves us all from who we think we are to what God has called us to be, from observant believer to confessing apostle. Moreover, remarkably, impossibly, Mary’s story demands that we acknowledge the very transformation of God. It is no small journey to go from our comfortable perceptions of God to God in the manger, vulnerable, helpless, dependent. Yet, this is the promise of Christmas.[8]
  • This transformation is indeed the promise of Christmas – the promise of a gift that comes straight from the heart of God, a gift that will bring transformation – peace, compassion, and God’s unending grace to a world in need. In the midst of this season of decorations and lights and cookies and trees and packages and bows and all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holiday, isn’t that our truest wish: peace, compassion, and God’s grace?
    • Last word today: “Grown-Up Christmas List”[9] → embodies our desire for those gifts from the heart – simple gifts of love and a better life – for the good of our own souls and the good of this world.

[1] Gloria Houston. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. (New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers), 1988.

[2] Houston, 27-28.

[3] Houston, 9.

[4] Mic 5:2, 4a, 5a.

[5] Daniel J. Simundson. “The Book of Micah: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary series, vol. 7. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996), 534.

[6] Kathryn M. Schifferdecker. “Commentary on Micah 5:2-5a” from Working Preacher, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=469. Written for Dec. 20, 2009.

[7] Lk 1:28-32a.

[8] Karoline Lewis. “Commentary on Luke 1:26-38” from Working Preacher, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=469. Written for Dec. 23, 2018.

[9] Linda Thompson and David Foster. “My Grown-Up Christmas List” as performed by Kelly Clarkson and Pentatonix from Christmas Is Here! album, released 2018 by RCA Records.

Sunday’s sermon: Blessed to be a Blessing

blessed to be a blessing

Texts used – Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Corinthians 9:6-12

  • Last week, as we began our Advent sermon series, we did so using the book The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree[1] by Gloria Houston.
    • Story so far:
      • Met Ruthie, little girl growing up in Appalachia in 1918
      • That year = her family’s turn to have the honor of providing the Christmas tree for the village church, so Ruthie goes out with her Papa in the spring and finds the perfect balsam growing up on the mountain → marks it with her red hair ribbon
        • Because it’s their turn, Ruthie also gets to be the angel in the church Christmas pageant
      • Before winter comes, Papa gets called to fight in WWI, leaving Ruthie and her mama home to scrape together what meager living they can
        • Papa = sole breadwinner, so things start to get very tight very quickly
        • See this most acutely when Ruthie tells Mama she needs a new dress with long, flowy sleeves to look like angel’s wings for the pageant → Mama has to tell her there’s no money for cloth
      • Get a letter from Papa saying the war is over and he’ll be home for Christmas, but he doesn’t arrive on the train with the rest of the village men returning from service → leaves Mama and Ruthie waiting
    • Sermon: talked about how, in the season of Advent, we are waiting for a Savior
      • Waiting to once again celebrate the birth of Christ
      • Also waiting for Christ to return
      • Not always easy or comfortable to wait
      • Spoke of what we are waiting for: peace and the embodiment of God’s love
      • Spoke of the importance of praising God in the midst of the waiting and anticipating the joyous praise once the wait is finally over
  • That’s where we’ve been, so let’s continue with our story. → READ PP. 14-23
  • Friends, if last week was all about waiting, this week is all about giving. → time of year for giving, right?
    • Giving gifts to our loved ones and friends
    • Giving to our favorite charities and non-profit organizations before the end of the year
      • Financial giving
      • Also volunteering – giving of our time and our talents
    • Sometimes giving is fun – “ah ha!” moment when you know you’ve found The Thing → Like Ruthie and Papa with the tree, we want our giving to be just right – to be perfect. Ruthie and Papa hunted for that perfect balsam to serve as their gift of a Christmas tree, and sometimes, we spend all sorts of time hunting for just the right thing.
      • Get excited about giving that perfect thing because we just know that the person receiving it will be thrilled … and we can’t wait to see that look on their faces the moment they unwrap their gift and realize just how awesome it is.
    • But sometimes process of giving ends up being stressful – when you don’t feel like you know what that “perfect” thing could be so you spend hours hunting and hunting but to no avail
      • Story of drawing names among family on Mom’s side: started with siblings → added siblings’ spouses → added siblings’ children once they got old enough → finally stopped when started adding siblings’ children’s spouses → It was too hard to find a gift for someone you’d never really met. It became about the obligation, not the giving.
      • In the book:
        • Giving becomes a little stressful with the pressure from the preacher – tries to convince Mama to let another family give the tree this year instead of their family since Papa isn’t home yet → all sorts of challenges wrapped up in this
          • Obligations are part of it → They said they’d provide the tree, and yet even on Dec. 23, and there was still no tree.
          • Uncomfortable waiting that we talked about last week is part of it → Despite what he said in his letter and the return of the rest of the village men, Papa still wasn’t home yet. And no Papa, no tree … at least, in the preacher’s mind.
          • Expectations are a part of it → The villagers and church-goers have their expectations. The pastor clearly has his expectations. And Mama and Ruthie have their own expectations. And if you’ve ever tried to satisfy your own expectations as well as the expectations of even one other person, you know just how difficult it can be to navigate all of that.
  • But Mama comes to the rescue → wakes Ruthie in the dead of night so they can go find that perfect Christmas tree and deliver it to church just as they promised they would
    • “Mama to the rescue” in more ways than one
      • Rescues the family’s honor by providing the tree … even if the preacher seems to think it appeared out of nowhere. – (not the brightest bulb in the box)
      • Rescues Ruthie’s peace of mind as they’re trudging through the woods at night – book: As they came to the dark woods the winter moon made strange shadows on the snow. “Mama, I’m afraid,” said Ruthie. “No need to be afraid,” said Mama. “We’re off to get the perfect balsam Christmas tree.” Mama began to sing “I wonder as I wander out under the sky.” Ruthie joined in the song. Soon she forgot to be afraid.[2]
      • Rescues Ruthie’s Christmas by sacrificing her own wedding dress and silk stocking to make a new dress with long flowy angel-wing sleeves and a tiny doll with a dress to match → And while this story is about the gift of the perfect Christmas tree, this dress and doll are the most precious gift of all, not because they are the most flashy or expensive gifts but because they come from a place of love and grace – from the heart of a mother who wants nothing more than to see her daughter happy … just like the gift of the Christ child for which we wait – a gift from an ever-present, ever-loving God who just wants to see that love reflected in God’s dearest creation once again.
        • Gift of generosity
        • Gift of compassion
        • Gift of unfathomable love
        • Gift meant to flow from one person to the next throughout creation → e.g.: Passing of the Peace story from “These Days”[3]
  • Scripture readings this morning get at that type of generous, compassionate giving this morning
    • Gospel text
      • Part of Jesus’ final teaching before the Last Supper
      • Probably one of the more quoted text (and frequently misquoted texts) in the Bible – text: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink. When did we see you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’[4]
      • Passage that speaks powerfully to compassionate, selfless giving → whole missions and ministries have been created and modeled on this passage
        • Matthew 25 Challenge (through World Vision) = week long, family-centered challenge to “step out of your comfort zones and engage in God’s love for ‘the least of these brothers and sisters”[5] → email/text each day with daily challenges, impactful stories, and ways to pray/talk about Mt 25 as a family
        • Pastoral discretion fund at First Pres in Galena = “Cup of Cold Water” fund (modeled after this verse)
        • Matthew 25: Ministries[6] = non-profit out of Cincinnati, OH: “The work of Matthew 25: Ministries helps the poorest of the poor and disaster victims throughout the United States and around the world.” → use “misprinted, slightly damaged, overstocked, or gently used supplies from corporations, organizations, and individuals” and send them to places that have great need
          • E.g. = all the championship t-shirts that get printed for the team that loses (World Series, Superbowl, Stanley Cup, etc.) get sent to places like this one and shipped to countries where people need clothing
        • And that, friends, is just a small sample. There is good work being done around the world in God’s name – charitable, compassionate, sharing work – all based on this passage … people giving freely and generously of their time, their talents, and their resources not because of what they think they’ll get in return but because of the blessing it is just to be able to give.
    • Hear this echoed in other NT reading this morning, too – text: Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work. … You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous in every way. Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us. Your ministry of this service to God’s people isn’t only fully meeting their needs but it is multiplying in many expressions of thanksgiving to God.[7] → God has blessed us to go out into this world to be a blessing to others for the glory of God.
      • Great illustration of this floating around the internet right now – video[8] going around about delivering necessities to people living on the streets via Amazon’s Prime same-day delivery option (called Amazon Prime Now – delivers in 1-2 hrs.) available in large cities → Basically, the producer went up to homeless people on the street, asked them if there was anything they needed (socks, backpacks, pants, etc.), and then ordered those necessities through Amazon Prime Now and directed the delivery people to give it to, for example, “the man sitting in front of this building at that address wearing the brown coat and grey baseball cap.” And it worked.
      •  
        • Nothing was asked for in return
        • Nothing was required of the homeless people or the delivery people or even of Amazon (put out independently of Amazon)
        • Simply being a blessing because the opportunity and the need were there → giving not out of obligation and expectation but sheer love and compassion
  • You see, friends, the power is not in what you give but in the giving itself. I realize that this is not a new lesson this morning. I’m sure I haven’t said anything earth-shattering that will completely turn your world upside-down. But sometimes we needed to be reminded of the lessons we already know. Sometimes we needed to be reminded that we are indeed blessed to be a blessing for others in this world just as Jesus came down to be a blessing to us. And that, friends, is always good news. Amen.

[1] Gloria Houston. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. (New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers), 1988.

[2] Houston, 15.

[3] Hope Harle-Mould. “See How They Love One Another” from These Days: Daily Devotions for Living by Faith. (Louisville, KY: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation), Thurs., Nov. 22, 2018.

[4] Mt 25:35-40.

[5] https://www.worldvision.org/lp/matthew-25-challenge.

[6] https://m25m.org/.

[7] 2 Cor 9:7-8, 11-12.

[8] https://youtu.be/hqAFnurX0KY.

Sunday’s sermon: The Perfect Time … to Wait

perfect christmas tree

Texts used – Isaiah 11:1-9; Luke 1:68-79

  • Friends, we find ourselves once again (a little belatedly this year) in the season of Advent.
    • To borrow from one of those tried-and-true Christmas songs, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year”
      • Time to wait and watch
      • Time to wonder and ponder
      • Time to listen for the rustle of angels wings and the whisperings of the Holy Spirit on the night wind
      • Time when hope and faith and joy and love shine a little brighter in our hearts and our lives as we await the coming of Love Incarnate, God With Us – the Christ child
    • Advent is a season of waiting … something that we’re not always so good at as a society. In this day and age, we have the world at our fingertips. Nearly instantaneously, we have the ability to answer to any question, to hear any song (and find the lyrics if we want to sing along), to purchase whatever our heart may desire, to see and speak with someone halfway around the world in real time, to check news and weather and stock market figures and anything else wherever and whenever we happen to be. We can do all this through a simple tap on our phones or tablets or computer screens. We don’t often have to wait for much, do we? And yet here we are in this church season dedicated to waiting.
      • Waiting to once again celebrate the birth of Christ
      • But also waiting for Christ to come again – Jesus’ own words in Mt: Then the sign of the Human One will appear in the sky. At that time all the tribes of the earth will be full of sadness, and they will see the Human One coming in the heavenly clouds with power and great splendor.[1] → makes our waiting an active waiting – This is not a passive, biding-our-time, counting-the-seconds-as-they-slowly-tick-by kind of waiting.
        • Waiting with purpose
        • Waiting with preparation – preparing our hearts and our lives for God’s in-breaking
          • Into this world
          • Into our worlds (world of our day-to-day lives)
          • Into our inner worlds (heart, mind, soul)
  • Now, a few years ago, we walked through Advent – through this season of waiting – using a story: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski[2]. Each Sunday, we read a little bit of the story and tied it in with Scripture as we moved closer and closer to Christmas and the coming of the Christ child. And ever since that series, people have been asking me to do another one. Well …………………… you’ve got your wish! → Advent sermon series this year: The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston[3]
    • READ THROUGH P. 13
  • One of the reasons that I love this story so much for this time of year is because it’s such a waiting, preparing kind of a story.
    • Begins with Ruthie and Papa preparing for Christmas all the way back in the spring when they go to choose the Christmas tree → speaks to the different ways we all prepare
      • Each year, a different family was given the honor of providing the Christmas tree for the village church, and each year, different families brought different kinds of trees – trees that expressed who they were and where they came from
        • Each required a different kind of waiting and cultivating for that tree to be ready
        • Each required a different kind of harvesting and carrying to get that tree from the place where it had grown all the way to the village church
        • But despite those differences, each tree brought beauty and joy to the church as the Christmas tree. Each tree brought honor and pride to the family that provided it. And each tree brought its own story … just like we all bring our own differences and expectations and traditions to our waiting.
    • Also love this story because it speaks to the hard part of waiting – the uncertainty, the struggle, the absence → Ruthie and Mama waiting for Papa to come home from the Great War = not an easy kind of waiting
      • With no husband/father at home to provide an income, they are waiting in want and in need – book: That year the timber was not cut. So Mama had no money to buy coffee, sugar, or cloth for new dresses.[4] → Ruthie and Mama try their hardest not to feel that need quite so strongly, but that doesn’t mean the challenge isn’t there: “Mama, Mama,” said Ruthie, as she ran up the front steps that day. “I must have a new dress with great big sleeves. I am going to be the heavenly angel when Papa gives the Christmas tree.” “Oh, my pretty young’un,” said Mama. “I have no cloth to make a dress with great big sleeves. And I have no money until your papa comes home.”[5]
      • Even harder = waiting for Papa’s safe return, especially when they see all the other village men returning home on the train … but no Papa
        • Expectation has been raised by Papa’s own words: “I’ll be home for Christmas,” the letter said. “The war is finally over. The Armistice was signed today!”[6] → And yet, as all the other men get off the train and rush to their loved ones, Ruthie and Mama are left watching and waiting, wondering and unsure with empty arms … and that is a hard, painful kind of waiting indeed.
  • Scripture readings this morning speak to waiting – time of anticipation and preparation that the people of Israel endured as they waited for God to send them a Savior → sort of end up book-ending the waiting
    • Passage from Is = prophecy during the waiting → speaks of the glory and joy and power of the one to come – text: A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse; a branch will sprout from his roots. The Lord’s spirit will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.[7]
      • Scholar: According to Isaiah, the transformation from a culture of fear to a world of peace begins with a stump. Out of something that appears finished, lifeless, left behind, comes the sign of new life – a green sprig. This is how hope gets its start – it emerges as a tiny tendril in an unexpected place.[8]
      • Paints quite the beautiful picture of what will come about once this Savior has come – predators lying down in peace and harmony with their prey, children playing safely in the vicinity of deadly creatures, an absence of war and destruction  not so different from the promise that Ruthie and Mama received from Papa in his letter: peace, harmony, being reunited in love … But in Scripture, as in the story, that time has not yet come. And so they waited.
    • Passage from Lk = another prophecy
      • Part of the story of the birth of John the Baptist
        • Recap: John’s birth was foretold to his father, Zechariah, just as Jesus’ birth was foretold to Mary → But when the angel visited Zechariah to tell him his wife, Elizabeth, was going to have a son, Zechariah laughed and didn’t believe the angel. So the angel took away Zechariah’s speech until the baby was born and Zechariah fulfilled the angel’s declaration by naming the baby John. – Scripture (just prior to what we read today): On the eighth day, it came time to circumcise the child. They wanted to name him Zechariah because that was his father’s name. But his mother replied, “No, his name will be John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives have that name.” Then they began gesturing to his father to see what he wanted to call him. After asking for a tablet, he surprised everyone by writing, “His name is John.” At that moment, Zechariah was able to speak again, and he began praising God.[9]
      • Today’s passage = that praise – praise after a great, long waiting – text: Bless the Lord God of Israel because he has come to help and has delivered his people. He has raised up a mighty savior for us I his servant David’s house, just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago. He has brought us salvation from our enemies and from the powers of all those who hate us.[10]
        • References the Is prophecy that we read → references that long time of waiting and hoping
        • Expresses abundant joy and satisfaction in that waiting – in the purpose and intentionality of that waiting – but also in the end of that waiting
        • Scholar: The Benedictus, Zechariah’s great hymn of prophecy, praise, and blessing clearly moves us toward that unfathomable, whole, creation-healing shalom of God. Here we find ourselves waiting and watching for something that we deeply desire, wondering if it will ever come.[11] → Friends, this is why we wait. Even though it’s hard. Even though it’s sometimes uncertain and uncomfortable. The waiting, the watching, the wondering and pondering … this is, as they like to say, the reason for the season. Waiting for hope. Waiting for love. Waiting for peace that passes all understanding. Waiting for the Christ that was and is and is to So come and wait with me, for now is the perfect time. Amen.

[1] Mt 24:30.

[2] Susan Wojciechowski. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. (New York, NY: Candlewick Press), XX.

[3] Gloria Houston. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. (New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers), 1988.

[4] Houston, 9.

[5] Houston, 13.

[6] Houston, 10.

[7] Is 11:1-2 (emphasis added).

[8] Stacey Simpson Duke. “Second Sunday of Advent – Isaiah 11:1-10, Pastoral Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 28.

[9] Lk 1:59-64.

[10] Lk 1:68-71 (emphasis added).

[11] Randle R. Mixon. “Second Sunday of Advent – Luke 1:68-79, Homiletical Perspective” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C, vol. 1. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 33.