Micah 5:2-5[a] & Luke 1: 39-55
Lord, take my words and speak through them,
take our thoughts and think through them,
take our hearts & set them on fire with love for you
through the power of the Holy Spirit,
and in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,
Sometimes if it is an emergency, Thea will send me down to Woolies to buy some food item. It may be an ingredient for a cake or a meal that she thought she had in the cupboard, but it was not there.
I think Thea lives with a sense of trepidation when she has to go down this route, for she knows I will often return with a whole range of items that have been on ‘special’ but things we didn’t need or things we already have multiples of.
Nevertheless, I assume when I get there, that the item Thea needs will be in the place where she or we last found it. We will also assume that the labelling or the packaging will be the same as before. So you look for an assistant to help and suddenly they disappear from the aisle in the same way the product you want has also disappeared.
Often when you find the valued thing you’re after, it does not look like what you were expecting, on in the place you have been expecting.
And so it is with the arrival of Jesus.
The long anticipated messiah came in the most unexpected of fashions. When the prophets and places Micah was writing about in his missal about 700 years before the birth of Christ. Judah and Israel [like our world today] was going through the upheaval of war, famine, people on the move escaping persecution, and political corruption.
The general populace was looking for a champion – the passage uses words of strength as the prophet anticipates a ‘ruler’ with the ‘strength of the Lord’ – one with ‘majesty’ and one with ‘greatness’.
These words would have resonated with a persecuted and downtrodden people.
But in that passage there were some words they and we might have glossed over – as if we were looking for the important ingredient in our lives, but looking on the wrong shelf.
Born in the backwater of Bethlehem, born of one of the smallest of the twelve tribes of Israel, bringing peace and security and life rather than revenge and war and death.
Much of the Old Testament is littered with God making the rules and breaking the rules – or at least our perception of what the rules should be. He started by making something out of nothing. We see it with the election of David – the runt of the litter, the last born, not the first born. We see it when God decides to have a prostitute, Rahab, in the royal line, a liar and cheat in the form of Jacob, and a Moabite widow in the form of Ruth..
Too often, our expectations can hinder us, we forget that God has a different way of seeing and a different way of action and a different way of being – consider the Trinity where 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 and 3!
Unless we see with different eyes we can spend a lot of time treading water in the supermarket of life.
That’s what the nativity story is all about – God turning our world upside down and then giving us the opportunity to see with new eyes. A king comes from a poor virgin teenager, the God of the Universe coming to earth to live our life, born in a stable.
One of my favourite Christmas carols, “Mary did you know?” speaks of this upside down way of thinking and believing that we so much need to recapture today.
It says, ‘Mary did you know, your baby boy has come to make things news, the child you delivered will soon deliver you. The blind shall see the deaf will hear and the dead will live again. The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the Lamb. And when you kiss you little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God.’
That’s the God we worship – a God who can take what is natural and make it into something supernatural. It’s what we believe when we lay hands of people, when we anoint them, pray for others and even just stand up for people.
In Luke’s gospel, Mary is doing more than paying lip service to this – she is living it out in her faith and in her life. She sees God turning the world upside down as well as he life too when she says, ‘God has brought down proud rulers from their thrones, lifted the humble, filled the hungry, send away the rich empty, and done great things through his servant [doule] – slave.
God creates the rules – and God breaks the rules or at least he breaks our perception of what the rules should be.
However, this Sunday – the fourth and final Sunday of Advent we should remember the one law that God shows that is immutable – one that does not change and it is God’s love for us. And how long does it last – forever!
Mary understands this love that will not let me go’ in her wonderful words, ‘he has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendant [you and I] forever.’
This love is not about God’s feelings for us – it is about his faith in us. Let we say that again – and love is a two way action, not just a thing.
If we think of love as action that is firstly initiated by God and confirmed in Christ’s birth amongst us, then our first duty of love as Christians, as the 20th century theologian Paul Tillich once said, is to listen. Listen to his still small voice, to hear the angels sing Hallelujah to listen to his heart beating with ours and then hear the words of scripture as a great love letter for each and every one of us.
As we learn to listen to the counter-cultural King of Kings as he lay in the filth of a stable in the midst of the brokenness of humanity – we can see ourselves in the supermarket once again – no longer, lost, confused – looking in the wrong places thinking we know better, and no longer cluttering our lives with stuff. No, now we understand that ‘love’ is the best and greatest of all. God finds us through that love before we find God.