Here is this morning’s sermon – enjoy!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
December 21, 2013
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
On October 31, 2013, I found myself doing something that I never thought I would ever do.
I rooted for the Red Sox in the World Series.
I couldn’t help myself. After everything that had happened this year – after the bombing at the marathon and the lockdown and manhunt that ensued less than a week later – I just felt like Boston deserved a victory.
That night I took to my Facebook account and posted the following:
Thinking about my experience in Boston the day of the marathon bombings. The joy and laughter that filled the morning. Seeing Sarah run by at mile 24. Hopping on the T to beat her to the finish. Hearing about the bombs on the train. The fear and terror of doing the math and realizing that Sarah had to have been at the finish line when the bombs went off.
Frantically trying to reconnect with our group. Leaving them at the convention center to go find Sarah with Pat and John. Our phones not working. Finally finding Sarah and sobbing together in the lobby of a hotel I can’t remember the name of with some guy who stayed with Sarah until we found her (I wish I had thought to get his name!). Reuniting our group again. Evacuating the convention center. Wandering the streets of Boston for hours. Watching cop cars, ambulances and fire trucks fly by. Unable to get answers.
As strange as this sounds, I pray that those memories eventually fade – and that the only thing I remember from that day is love. Because that was a huge part of my experience that day, too. The love between the family and friends that I cheered with, wandered with, prayed with, cried with and pushed forward with that day. The love that I felt every time someone called or texted to see if we were okay. The love that I saw in the streets as Bostonians helped out-of-towners find their way around unfamiliar streets. The love that I later saw in video footage and photographs of people – runners and spectators – running towards the chaos instead of away from so that they could tend to victims. The love of a sweet friend who eventually picked us up so we wouldn’t have to fight the trains to get home. The love expressed by a New York stadium full of diehard Yankees fans singing “Sweet Caroline” later that week.
You see – in the end, love always wins over hate. Always. My vocation is proof of this. The power of the Christian story is not in the crucifixion, it is in the resurrection. And I want to live my life as a tangible expression of love in this world. I know that it exists. I saw it on April 15, 2013 and I pray that this generation will be the one that heeds the call to choose love over hate and works to bring peace on earth.
It is a victory for the Red Sox. It is a victory for Boston. It is a victory for all of us.
Over the next few days, that status went viral. It received 64 likes, 14 comments and 7 shares. I received texts, calls, messages and comments of thanks for my words. People told me where they were when they read this status and how they reacted. One friend of mine even got a free coffee out of the deal; her Starbucks barista took pity on her when she burst into tears while reading it in line. While my initial thought was, “Oh, geeze, I should have spell-checked!” I realized as the comments poured in that people desperately needed to read those words; that people in our world today desperately need to hear about love.
This morning we light the candle of love, the candle that completes the circle around our Advent wreath. At our Hanging of the Greens service at the beginning of Advent, we were reminded of the way that loves permeates through wreaths. The liturgy said:
The circular shape of the wreath represents eternity; the wreath has no beginning and no end. Displaying wreaths reminds us that God’s love for us has no beginning and no end.
It is fitting that we light the candle of love this morning, the last Sunday of Advent. First of all, it completes the circle, reminding us that love is truly what holds us together and what connects us always. It reminds us that even in our darkest moments, God’s love still shines within us and through the people around us.
Advent is a season of waiting, but it is also a time when we are invited to take the journey to Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph. Last week we reflected on The Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise to God; this week an angel appears to Joseph in a dream.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we never really get Mary’s backstory. The Angel Gabriel never appears to her in this Gospel, only in the Gospel of Luke. So we are told in this particular passage of scripture that Mary and Joseph were engaged, but not living together when Mary became pregnant and there is no divine explanation for it (as there was in Luke). The only earthly and logical explanation for her pregnancy was infidelity.
Joseph, described in today’s reading as a “righteous” man, was a man of the law; and the law forced him in this instance to leave Mary because of her unfaithfulness. But Joseph did not want to humiliate Mary by leaving her publically; he planned to, as the scripture says, “dismiss her quietly.” But then an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit and that the birth of their son Jesus would fulfill a prophecy spoken by the prophet Isaiah.
When Joseph woke up he took Mary as his wife.
The outward expression of love shown in this story is remarkable.
God’s love for Mary and Joseph as he called them as servants to bring salvation into the world.
Joseph’s love for a Mary as he stood by her and protected her from public scrutiny and humiliation.
God’s love for all of us as he sent Emmanuel – God with us – into our midst to bring hope, peace, joy and love to the world.
It is fitting that we light the candle of love on the last Sunday of Advent. By now we are all stressed to the max. We haven’t finished our Christmas shopping and the presents that we have bought likely aren’t wrapped. It we are hosting family, we need to clean our houses and go grocery shopping and if we are traveling, we need to pack. Traffic is heavier than usual. We haven’t even started writing our Christmas Eve sermon yet (okay, okay, perhaps that one is just on me).
And yet, we are reminded by a light that just completed our circle that love always prevails, that love is the one true meaning of this season and that everything else is secondary. Love came into our world in human form and we are called to remember that love, to feel that love and to share that love.
As you celebrate Christmas this week, remember keep love at the center of all that you do. Don’t worry about clean homes and perfectly put together centerpieces. Resist the urge to serve ONLY pinterest-worthy food and drinks. Experience the moments rather than anticipating the next ones. If things don’t get done, they won’t get done.
But the amazing thing is – even if something doesn’t get done, love will still prevail on Christmas morning. The Christmas story reminds us that every year.
Love always prevails.
Thanks be to God!