Hebrew Testament Micah 5:2-5a
EPISTLE READING Hebrews 10:5-10 GOSPEL READING Luke 1:39-55
I want to start off today with one of my favorite stories about Julie Adkins…Those who remember when Julie was the pastor here may remember that Julie and I went to Guatemala together a few times on mission trips and I know y’all remember what a smart cookie Julie is. This story relates to the scripture we just read. Our hosts wanted us to do a bible study with the women at one of the churches we were going to visit. On our way there in the bus they told us they were having a bit of a problem with the men of the church……the men insisted on attending the women's bible study. Nobody could figure out if they thought the women needed chaperones or if the men were just so hungry for bible study they would take anything they could get…..but the real problem was that when the men were there the women wouldn’t talk. And the men ended up doing all the talking. And it was a bible study that was supposed to be for the women.
…………Well, it didn’t take long for Julie to figure it out and she said, “I know what to do. Leave it to me.”
So we got there and sure enough, the men showed up at the women’s bible study. Introductions , etc, etc. And the first thing Julie did was to have everybody pull out their bibles and go to Luke 1:39 and she asked everybody what it felt like the first time they felt their baby move inside their womb.
That shut the men up. And eventually they drifted away and the women had the room to ourselves. Julie is a genius.
But this story of Elizabeth and Mary is one of the best in the bible because it has so many layers.
And each layer is a love story
And just like the candle we lit in our advent wreath
Today is a good day for us to talk about love.
We have all heard the different categories of love in the Greek language:
Eros is romantic love, passion
Philia is friendship love between friends
Agape is the unconditional love God has for us
It’s the story of two women of very different ages:
A story of the deep Philia love between them
But also a love based on
Something unique that is happening to them
That no one else on earth understands
And it is based on God’s agape love for humanity
the older Elizabeth who has given up on ever having a child
who now has this miracle bestowed upon her
even though she is beyond her childbearing years
and the younger Mary with a different sort of miracle
a miracle no woman has ever encountered before
Mary, more than anyone in this story,
knows that her pregnancy is impossible,
and she’s not sure how to feel about it
but remarkably she has enough faith to tell God
she is a willing participant
This is love.
This is faith
Elizabeth prepared the way for Mary
In the same way her son John
prepared the way for Mary’s son Jesus
Elizabeth was the only other person who understood
What God was doing with Mary
Because a miracle was happening to her, also
This was love
In so many different ways
And on so many different levels
Everyone needs friends like Elizabeth and Mary had in each other.
The bible doesn’t indicate that they were able
to spend much time together after this meeting
And that’s a shame.
Elizabeth could have been such a wonderful mentor to Mary
We know from scripture that Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt after Jesus’ birth in fear of Herod
I suspect that Mary lived the rest of Jesus’ life
looking over her shoulder
She probably never ever relaxed
Knowing that his life would always be in danger
Nobody says much about it but it must have been hard to be Jesus’ mother.
Yet all the bible says is, “…Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”
Mary really needed a friend like Elizabeth
This is a story in which the men are silenced
And the women do the talking
Zechariah is struck mute by God’s angel
Until after the baby John is born
Joseph does not speak at all in the book of Luke
And Mary makes one of the great speeches of the bible.
It’s a story of Joseph who was willing to believe his betrothed
No matter how unbelievable the story was
One of the great surprises of this 21 months that we have been living inside a pandemic and basically confined to our homes has been the way we educate, work and socialize
With the development of the internet, a lot of it has moved online. Schools and businesses have moved online with mixed results. Some people have started working from home and say they won’t ever go back to the office.
I have a group of friends I’ve known for over 30 years.
We all started out going to the same church
but, as you might imagine, over 30 years,
people drift off to other lives.
The core of the group is four women who have a singing group. They try to meet a couple of times a year to sing together.
In person this made for a Girls Weekend that was a lot of fun.
But now the group has grown to seven women
who live in six different cities in two states.
And it’s just almost impossible to get together in person anymore.
But since Covid hit we have started getting together
on a monthly basis for the last year.
But we do it in a Zoom call.
I don’t have to drive in the rain or dark.
My cat can crash the party if she wants.
In short, we have seen each other more easily
and more regularly than ever before.
We get caught up on kids, grandkids,
cats and dogs, ideas, recipes and laughs.
Our biggest problem this week was that Traci didn’t come because her Sunday School class
was having an In-Person Christmas party
and they were offering real food.
A Zoom meeting couldn’t compete with real food.
Women have been doing this since Mary and Elizabeth’s time:
Getting together and enjoying each other’s company.
My grandmother met a friend every Friday in downtown Dallas.
I have no idea who the woman was.
But every Friday Oma would dress up in her corset
and best jewelry and take the streetcar
to downtown Dallas to meet this lady.
I think her name was Mrs Frankie
and I’ll bet they spoke German at their lunches
because Oma didn’t have anyone around her
who spoke her first language,
the one she was most comfortable with.
These comfortable friendships are so important.
Friendships where you can let your guard down
and be your most authentic self.
We are able to relax and be comfortable in our friendships
Because we know that God approves
Just as God sent Eve for Adam to have a partner
So he wouldn’t be lonely
We have friends to bring fullness to our days.
Above anything else on this earth
The one thing we know
Is that God loves us
And wants us to be happy.
Today is the Sunday we lit the Love candle
on the advent wreath
To remember God’s great love to us in sending Jesus
And I am drawn to the John 3:16 scripture.
Sitting here today in the beauty of our sanctuary
With the excitement of Christmas within our grasp
As mature Christians we cannot ignore how the story ends
We know that the cradle will end at the cross
We know how much God loves us because
we have memorized that short line in John 3:16
“For God so loved the world
God loved you and me……and, yes, even Beaven Els
…..and John Clark......and Dan Wilson.
God loved us all so much
That God came in the form of a human, in the form of Jesus,
As a baby in a manger, to live the ordinary life of a human,
To walk among us and to suffer and then to die a human death
And all we have to do is believe in that love
To believe that this kind of love is possible
And that God can and did do this wonderful thing
It is not too far of a stretch because
we begin from a position of already knowing God
as a loving parent who had already
done us some pretty generous favors out of love.
God listened to Abraham when Abraham wanted
to negotiate for the people of Sodom to be saved
God listened out of love for humanity
And then, if we believe Jesus is God incarnate,
God wept at the death of Lazarus.
God wept out of love
and at Jesus’ baptism
while his cousin John watched
a dove flew down from above and told everyone in earshot
that “this is my beloved son in whom I am pleased. Listen to him.”
God told everyone that God loved Jesus
Jesus Christ loved us enough to give his life for us.
But he learned to love from his heavenly Creator.
As we enter the final leg of this year’s Christmas season
May we will be filled with love
Love for family, and for friends,
Let us remember where that love originated
It came from the Blessed Three in One
who dwells with us in this very moment
Just as it did 2,000 years ago
on that wonderful night of Christ’s birth
In Bethelehem…. in a humble town
A town that is a real place
That we could go visit today if we wanted to.
The place where Jesus Christ
drew his first breath as a human being
Where God came to live among us
Because God loved the world that much.
Let us pray:
Thank you for loving us
We thank you for Sending Jesus into this world
Give us the eyes to see him
And the hearts to hold him
And the feet to follow him