Tuesday, December 23, 2014


On Thursday my wife and I were sitting in our living room enjoying a moment to talk at the end of a busy day.
I looked up on the mantel over our fire place and noticed that something was different this year.
The manager scene that we put up every year looked better for some reason.
It looked different because unlike in years past, we didn’t surround it with lights, greens, or family photos.
It was on the mantel all by itself.
This made it easier to see, and made it stick out as the center piece of the room when you looked at from our couch.
We didn’t overshadow it with other things.

The Angel, in this morning’s Gospel from Luke, tells Mary that she will be “Overshadowed” by the power from the Most high.
One of the things I love about the Biblical story is the way that just one word can stick out.
And for me this year this word stuck out.
Probably because my kids and I were having a discussion about how Jesus was born.
Who was Jesus father?
And in Luke’s telling of the story this is the explanation from the angel about what is going to happen.
But what does it mean to be overshadowed by the Most High?

I was thinking about all the things in our lives that can/do overshadow Christmas.
Like our mantel that had so many things on it that our manger scene was overshadowed.
What are the things that keep us from seeing clearly into the manger, what stops us from seeing God with us this season?
The over commercialization of the season, the feeling that we have to do it the “right way”, the pressure to make sure that our families are happy.
And for some the overshadowing can come in real painful ways, the loss of a loved one at this time of year, the inability to travel to be with our families.
And then there are things that simply make it impossible to believe that God’s kingdom has no end.
We know of the news that tells us that the world is falling apart.
We live in a world where children are killed in school by religious extremists to prove a point in the middle of an internal struggle.
We live in a world where police officers are killed in while on patrol.
We live in a world of bravado that seeks to use violence as the way to solve problems.
We live in a world where justice is hard to find, and where there is no justice there is no peace.
We live in a world where on Christmas Eve there will be families sleeping in a car.
Lots of things are threatening to overshadow Christmas this year.
The overshadowing seeks to make the darkness find a permanent home in our lives this season.

Things were probably not that different for Mary.
Her world was about to change dramatically.
It was about to be upset and turned around.
How would she explain to those around her this pregnancy?
She knew that in her world it could mean death.
Maybe Joseph would think that she was lying and have her stoned to death for having an affair.
At best he would be compassionate and simply ask for their engagement to be off.
Mary was in danger, that fear could have overshadowed her.
Not only that, but Mary doesn’t seem to know what is happening to her.
She was perplexed by the Angels words.
So Mary is at first fearful and doubtful.
She was in jeopardy of being overshadowed by those two things, but the angel promises that it will be God who will overshadow her and take away doubt and fear.

I am wondering if we will be overshadowed this Christmas.
Will we be overshadowed by greed, fear, injustice, sadness?
These are all very real things in our lives.
Or will we be overshadowed by the power of the Most High.
Will we stand in awe of what God is doing, will do.
Will we risk the faith to say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

What would have happened if Mary had not accepted God’s proposal?
This would have been a very different story.
God would have taken another path, and done something different.
But in faith Mary accepts what the angle says.

If you have heard me preach before you will know I am not big on our personal choices.
I just don’t believe that much of what happens to us we can choose.
Most of what happens in our lives is out of our control, and we too often operate with the illusion of control.
But here is this exception.
We don’t choose faith, but we do accept it.
We do accept God and God’s plan for our lives.
It overshadows the fear that we feel, the uncertainty we have, and the other things that seem to overshadow our lives.

And in this final week of advent we light a candle for peace.
We seek a peace that seems so elusive, so out of our abilities to obtain it.
But if we are willing to allow God to overshadow us, through everything else we can see peace in our lives.
What Mary does is surrender to the idea that she is not in control.
And in faith we can too.
Here am I.
I don’t fully understand.
I am worried about what this will mean.
I don’t know what will happen next.
But Lord I stand in faith.
I stand here putting my life into your hands.
That is what Christmas brings us, an unbelievable story.
It is a story about a broken world, hurting, afraid, doubtful, and full of violence.
And into the middle of that we are met with something unexplainable that overshadows everything else.
And we stand in awe and wonder.
We find in that story faith in something too marvelous for us to explain.
We find God who was willing to give up heavenly majesty walk among us, to dwell with us.
We find a God willing to be born a vulnerable baby.

Only in faith can we embrace such a story.
But what I think we find is when we are able to accept this story in faith than we are overshadowed by its beauty, wonder, and might.
We are overshadowed to know that we don’t have a God that doesn’t understand what it is to be week and mild, like us.
We have a God that is weak and mild for us.
We don’t have a God that we have to guess about what it means.
We have a God that came down and showed us what true love, hope, joy, and peace look like.
We have a God who risks becoming a human out of love for all humanity.

And that is what stands out.
That is what overshadows us this Christmas season.
It overshadows all the decorations, sadness, brokenness, and injustice that we experience and know.
May that be what your Christmas is about.
Clearing away the greens and lights to see God come down to overshadow us, and the Holy Spirit comes upon us.
So we might say with Mary that we to don’t understand the plan and we too are doubtful, but here we are, we stand in faith.
May God overshadow you this Christmas so that you know the hope, love, joy, and peace that comes with believing.

No comments:

Post a Comment