Advent 4, Year C

Sermon

January 13, 2013

 

Giver of all gifts, prepare us for the greatest gift…

 

Can you identify with totally trusting God?  Have you ever let God guide your next step completely?  When you are undecided about what to do next and prayed for guidance, did you really let God have control?  Even knowing that God loves us and knows us, we still have trouble letting God guide us.  I have to get pretty frustrated trying to make my life work before I can turn to God and ask for help.  Has that ever happened to you?

I had been working part time as an associate priest in the Diocese of California, applying for different open rector positions for over a year.  I knew it was time for me to have my “own church” so to speak, but it just wasn’t happening, and didn’t look like it would happen in the Bay Area for many reasons.  So finally, I asked God – send me where ever you need me to be – even if it means that I need to leave California.  Two months later I was forwarded an e-mail from Fr. Mark Hall who was looking for some part-time help at St. Anne’s in Stockton.  Nothing is impossible with God.

If we back up a little in the gospel story, Mary had just a few days before been visited by Gabriel, an angel sent by God.  Gabriel tells her she has been chosen by God to be the one to give birth to a child that will be called Son of the Most High, and the Son of God.  Mary must have been very skeptical – this was all really strange talk, and it was very dangerous.  Gabriel gives her a sign.  “Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”  Mary gives her consent to God’s plan.  She knows the Torah and has heard about God’s promises of deliverance by a Savior.

Going to visit her relative, Elizabeth, accomplishes a couple things.  She can check out what the angel has told her – Elizabeth is with child – and Elizabeth confirms the angel’s words.  She reassures Mary with these words “and blessed is she who believed that there would be fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”  So Mary says – Yes!  Everything is going to be okay!  Mary’s response is known as the Magnificat, we sang it just a few minutes ago.  I doubt that she has any idea of what is in store for her or for her child, but she is able to receive the gift God has given her.  God will save me, and all future generations will recall this time and they too will receive good things from God.

Mary’s song is for us too.  “God’s mercy is on those who praise him from generation to generation…he has exalted the lowly and filled the hungry with good things.”  Listen to your soul; let the song of praise and thanksgiving spread from it through your whole being.  Stay open, be vulnerable and ready to receive God’s gifts for you.  How?  How do we stay open?  How can we be ready?  Mary says, “My soul magnifies (which means declares the greatness of) the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.  So our soul can continually bless and rejoice in God, but how do we get our conscious mind and actions to do the same?  If we set aside time each day for quiet prayer or reading scripture, that’s a start.  If we can take everyday, repetitive chores and do them for the glory of God, that’s another way.  Making a commitment, having the intention to pray and give glory to God at all times throughout the day, would insure that our actions and words are praise worthy.

I don’t know about you, but I am so easily distracted by the world around me.  So many things call for our attention.  It’s so easy to forget, to lose track, be influenced by the wrong people or thoughts.  It would help to have something to remind us.  Something tangible that would call our minds back to giving thanks and praise to God.  Some people carry prayer beads in their pocket or have a prayer bracelet.  Maybe it’s a tattoo, a symbol or sign that would help you refocus on God.  Some people wear a cross, and I remember one person telling me that they didn’t wear it so others could see, but they wore it inside next to their heart where they could feel it.

Another idea is looking for Christ in each other – hmmm.  Our souls have no problem magnifying the Lord.  If we look for Christ in the people we meet, in ourselves when we look in the mirror, we can be continually reminded to praise and give glory to God.  Sundays, as we gather together is a great time to practice.  At the exchange of the Peace, look in each other’s face, see Christ looking at you and smiling.  Practice as you stand in those lines at the check out counter, or wending your way through the stores.  Practice at work on your co-workers, your boss, or those pesky customers.  Look for Christ in your neighbors and those family members you only see at the holidays.

Advent has helped us prepare for God’s greatest gift – the baby Jesus.  As another year begins, we need to celebrate the gifts and the work that God has given us to do.  We use our gifts to help each other, to do something to heal our world.  We know that we are doing the work of God, our particular ministry, when we get more enjoyment and energy out of the activity than it takes from us.  In those quiet moments between bowl games this week, think about what you do at St. Anne’s – does it still bring you joy?  Is God calling you to some new ministry or confirming what you have been doing?  Trust that with God nothing is impossible.     AMEN.

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1 Comment

  1. So powerful. The last 2 paragraphs summed it up and moved me. Thanks so much.

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