Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Crazy Plan

It is a crazy plan.
God is going to use a fourteen year old girl to bear His Son who will save the world.
Salvation is going to come to the world through a poor girl of no consequence in a poor back water town in Nazareth.
It just doesn’t make sense.
So we can understand Mary’s confusion when the angel shows up and tells her that she is favored.
“She was perplexed by the angel’s words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.”
Who is she that God would favor her?
Who is she that God has chosen her for this task?

We talk a lot about God’s plan, but what we forget is that often times God’s plans don’t make much sense to us.
This is one of those plans.
We get lost in this story on some of the more sensational points.
Was Mary a Virgin?
I had a friend in college who was estranged from the Church who insisted that the word virgin simply meant young woman.
I often thought she got lost in this point, but forgot to look at the more scandalous parts of the story.
Sure according to the story Mary is a virgin but that is not the most sensational part.
The fact that God would come to dwell among us, that God favors us, is really crazy.
Look at us human beings, there is not all that much to find favor with.
We hurt one another, we are greedy, and we are focused on the wrong things.
And yet, God sees it important to dwell with us.
In our lowliest of moments God is dwelling with us.
That is something extraordinary and mind blowing.

We think that an angel showing up to deliver this news is mind blowing.
But most people believe in angels to some degree.
Most people have a statue of an angel somewhere in there house.
We love angels so much that they are in movies all the time.
An angel is not the crazy part of the story.
God dwelling in the heart of human life is the craziest part of the story.

Virgin births, Angels delivering messages, these are not the real crazy parts of the story.
They are details added for effect or for theological reasons.
The real scandal here is that God, the Most High, the ruler and maker of all things, has favored this girl of no significance.
That God is going to dwell in the skin of human beings.

The Christmas story is about God showing up just outside our expectations.

God is always working in ways that we just don’t understand.
Consider King David from our first reading this morning.
By all accounts he is making a reasonable assumption.
He lives in style in his house of cedar.
The Ark, and in David’s mind this means God, is living in a tent.
Shouldn’t God live in something grander?
But God refuses to be domesticated.
God doesn’t need or want some fancy house.
God asks David, “did I ever ask for a house?”

It reminds me of all those Christmas gifts we get that we didn’t really ask for but get anyway.
The feety pajamas sent to us by some distant relatives, the sweeter given by a neighbor, a Chia pet, a personalized belt buckle that flashes your name in neon.
I once saw Bill Cosby in concert and he told this story about his birthday.
He had hoped that he would get a new car.
He spent months dropping hints that he wanted this new car.
On the day of his birthday his wife woke him up all excited.
She brought him down to the garage and sat him in a chair.
She told him to wait there.
He waited in anticipation of his new car.
A few minutes later his wife backed their old car into the garage and in the back of the car was a new cedar dresser.
Bill Cosby sat there thinking to himself, “Did I ever say I wanted a new dresser?”

This is God’s attitude toward David this morning, because God does not want to be boxed in.
God wants his home to be in every human heart.
What is it that we are going to give God this Christmas?
God does not want or need anything fancy.
God does not want a new home, or car, or dresser.
God wants you.
God wants all of you.
God wants to dwell in your heart, live among you where you are.
Our Gospel reading this morning reminds us that we are God’s favored ones.
God brings you this morning Good news.
God remembers today the promise of mercy made through the generations.

We can certainly see how God is working in our congregation to show blessings to others and us.
In this advent season we have heard lots about what our congregation is doing.
How we are spreading the good news through our worship and music.
How we are touching the lives of the youth.
How we are proclaiming the good news to the next generation through our Sunday school.
How we are reaching out to the hungry.
All those are great things, but they are not our work.
They flow through the Holy Spirit into us and out into the world.
The Holy Spirit has come upon us and that is why we do these things.
We don’t do them to curry favor with God.

This morning as you fill out your commitment cards, I want to warn you that giving your money to this Church gets you nothing.
It does not curry you favor with God.
Rather giving is an expression of the gifts that God has given.
God in his mercy has favored us.
And God has called us blessed.
Go has favored us not because we are special, not because we give money to the church, but because God wants to live in our hearts.
God has called us blessed.

This week the Patriots will play the Denver Broncos.
For those who don’t know Tim Tebow is the quarterback for the Denver Broncos he is a sincere young man who plays football really well and has a deep faith in Jesus Christ.
According to his pastor, Wayne Henson, "God favors Tim for all his hard work.”
But Tim Tebow is not favored by God anymore or any less than anyone else.
Our Gospel this morning and Mary’s magnificent remind us that God dwells and lives not in those who are rich and famous.
Not by those who are powerful.
God finds favor with those who are of little or no consequence to the world.
God finds favor with those who don’t work hard.
And winning football games, elections, or being a pastor is no sign of God’s favor.
God is always working outside the box, just beyond our expectations.

If you are feeling lowly, unimportant, and forgotten remember today that God is favoring you.
God is looking for you.
And when God shows up I am willing to bet that your reaction will be one of puzzlement.
What kind of greeting can this be?
What kind of plan is this?

Because when our lives are tied to God’s we find that our lives too are out of the box.
God is always interrupting our lives with surprises and new revelations.
How can this be?
Is often our response to what God is up to in our lives?

Advent is coming to a close.
I hope in this advent season you have been surprised by the ways that God has shown up in your life.
I hope that you are willing to give to God all of our life, your heart, your time, talent, and treasure.
Not because you are paying a bill but because God has granted you favor, and given you the greatest gift that of his Son Jesus Christ who brings Good News to all people.

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