Hi friends! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We capped off our Thanksgiving weekend with a wonderful Hanging of the Greens service in worship on Sunday and then a hugely successful Giving Tuesday two days later. (If you are interested in donating to that campaign, our page is still live!)
On Sunday we kicked off a three-week Advent sermon series looking at some of the spiritual practices we learn about in the Christmas story. We started with service – and the stories of Mary and Joseph. The sermon is shorter, because – between Hanging of the Greens and Communion – we had a lot going on in worship!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
December 1, 2019
Say “Yes!” To God
I have always loved the story of Mary’s – long before I even thought of having children myself. In fact, this passage from the Gospel of Luke was read at my ordination in 2011 – in April, two weeks before Easter.
If I remember correctly, there was a collective, “Are you sure about that?” response from the clergy helping me plan the service when I told them that was my choice.
Here’s the thing: I think, on a very human level, I have always just had deep respect for what Mary did. She said yes.
Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.
A few years ago we did an Advent bible study called The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem. There was a DVD companion to the study where the creator of the series, Adam Hamilton, took us through the Holy Land and literally showed us where the Christmas story unfolded. One of the themes Hamilton kept coming back to was the fact that God did not use the rich and powerful to tell this story, to bring Jesus into this world; but instead he used ordinary people, just like us. We talked a lot in our group about the ways God used and continued to use people to do God’s work in this world; and so part of our job, as Christians, is to discern what God is calling us to do in this moment in time.
This idea has stuck with me and, I think, resonated even deeper as we went through the Year of Mark last year and really immersed ourselves in Jesus’ story and thought about what it means to be his disciple. Because the Christian story is still being written. Yes, a significant portion of it has already happened, but there is a very relevant part that is still happening today, in our lives. God did not stop using people to do God’s work in this world once Jesus’ time on earth was done; in fact that is when some of the real work began.
And so I think we can read the Christmas story two ways. The first is the way we do on Christmas Eve, which is to read it, sing about it and celebrate it. But what I want to do during Advent this year is to read it and then really take the time to think about what it means for our lives today. Is God going to call all of us to give birth to Jesus? Well, no; but there is more to the story than that.
This Advent we will look at three faith practices – service, hospitality and evangelism. We will use the characters and their stories in the Christmas story to talk about how God called them, but then also think about how God is calling us today.
We begin with Mary and Joseph.
No offense to all the men out there, but speaking from my own context, I do not often read Joseph’s call story. And it’s not intentional or anything, but I think when you are trying to finish Lessons & Carols in under an hour, you tell Mary’s story and then hit the road to Bethlehem.
Both Mary and Joseph’s stories bear a lot of similarities to one another. Angels appear to both Mary and Joseph; the angels say, “Do not be afraid”; Jesus is named, in some way.
And, in both stories, Mary and Joseph say yes to God.
And to me, that is one of the most magical parts of the Christmas story.
They said YES to God!
God asked them to serve and they said yes. God asked them to be part of this story of redemption and love and grace and they said yes. God asked them to shine light into the darkness of the world and they said yes.
What is God asking you to do this year?
The Christmas story is not just about a baby being born, it is about a story that begins when ordinary people say yes to God. And so we, as active participants in the story in our lives, today, can participate by saying yes. We, too, can say “yes!” when God comes to us and asks us to serve. We, too, can say, “yes!” when opportunities arise for us to share the Gospel and spread God’s love.
This Advent season I encourage you all to say yes to God. Say yes when God asks you to serve. Say yes, even in the moments where it seems like it might be hard. Say yes, even in the moments when it is slightly inconvenient. Say yes, even when you are not quite sure what God is doing.
Remember, God used ordinary people to start telling this story 2,000 years ago and God is still using ordinary people, just like us, to continue telling it today.
And that is where the real magic begins.
It is the first Sunday in Advent, a season of waiting; waiting for Jesus to be born, waiting for Emmanuel – God with us – to break forth into this world, waiting for that moment when God comes to us and asks us to serve.
Waiting for that moment when we can say “yes!” to God.
Blessings on your Advent journey.
Thanks be to God!