THE 4TH SUNDAY IN ADVENT AD 2018
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Micah 5:2-5a But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book. ’”
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Luke 1:39-45 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.
Help. Yes, help is probably something that all of us could use a little of in these last days, or rather, last hours before Christmas. I liked the way that someone put it to me this week, “I’m three steps ahead and eight days behind.” This came right at the moment when I was talking about how I had my sermons written and the bulletins printed but realized that I hadn’t sent out last Sunday’s sermon for the website. No, this year I will not be folding the bulletins late in the day on Christmas Eve or decorating my grandmother’s cookies in the Church basement. No, the bulletins are printed and folded and the cookies are in the tin already to go. Why? Because a near fatal stroke gives you the sense to ask for help.
Help. Yes, we could and can all use a little of that, can’t we beloved? It is only Eden’s lie that has us thinking that we are supposed to or can get by without it. Doing it all, yes, that’s what you’re stuck with when you’re your own God. Doing it all and not getting anything done … not well anyway. God in His mercy allows that to happen, yes He does, because He wants to save us from the lie. This is why the fudge doesn’t turn out and the peanut brittle has to be turned into pralines. This is why the flights don’t work out to get a loved one home on time for Christmas and why the Church Christmas tree sometimes falls over on boxing day.
Help. Yes, we can all use a little of that when it comes to Christmas and even more so when it comes to life. When you look at your lives and see all the places that you aren’t measuring up, where you’re not getting it all done, I know that it’s hard not to hang your head and feel really low, to feel like a failure, like you’re not measuring up. To which I say for myself and you this morning a very loud and clear, “Duh!” Measuring up? No you will never, ever do that! God save you and me from that! Heaven keep us from ever feeling that way! The Lord guard us from such a deadly delusion.
No, you will never measure up. Not when you’re trying to measure up to God. You won’t even ever measure up if you’re just trying to do it as a man or woman, boy or girl. No, you won’t. No matter what the devil and the world may say, God status really is out of your reach. And perfect man, woman? Husband, wife? Father, mother, or child? Boss, worker? Coach, player? Pastor, layperson? Christian, neighbour? No, that isn’t going to happen either. No. Not even close. Because cursed is the ground because of you … by the sweat of your face you shall eat your bread. Messing up, falling short, failing, is the way, ever since the Garden.
I know it’s hard not to groan inwardly, even outwardly, or even lose your patience and use a choice word or two when something else doesn’t go right for you. I know it’s really hard not to sigh and hang your head when you think of all that you should be doing and are not getting done but on this day I encourage you to be of good cheer. I dare to even say be happy and glad because this means that you are ripe and ready for the help of the One whose birth we will begin to celebrate tomorrow evening. Yes, you are ripe and ready for the good and gracious work of your Saviour.
Today, as the Lord sets before you the blessed Virgin Girl from Nazareth He holds up before your eyes what that help will do for your life. Now contrary to what some people belief this help will not help you to get it all right. No, His help is not simply a hand up to you so that you can get it right. No, you and I are to much of a lost cause for that to be enough. That is the reality of sin. No, His help is all about Him getting it right for us. It’s not to say that HE doesn’t help us to walk in His ways as we see Mary doing today but if we could walk His way then He wouldn’t have had to come to walk our way for us.
If we could walk His way then there would have been no need for Him to come down from heaven and take up our life as an infant in Mary’s womb. It wasn’t like we needed His example. God had given us His law. He was as clear as day about what HE wanted from us. What our lives should look like. Without question, Christ clearly shows us, what living that life looks like, but how you belittle Him and all that He did when you reduce Him to a “how to” man. As if that’s all that we needed. No, no, He was and is far more than that because HE is exactly what we needed - A Saviour sent to get it right for us as He paid for all our wrongs - a God made man to redeem our lives.
Now without question we see Mary doing something right this day, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but she isn’t called blessed among women by Elizabeth because of what she does or is in herself. No, she is called blessed because of the blessed and blessing Fruit of her womb. She is blessed because of the Blessed One - the fount and source of all blessedness who has taken up her flesh in her to be the Saviour of the world - which includes her. Mary does an incredible thing when she says yes, to Gabriel, when she believes what He spoke to her from the Lord, but she is only blessed in this, because in that moment, the One who said, “yes” to the Father came to abide in her.
Mary’s life is completed and perfected by her Child, who came to fulfill all that she was lacking, to do all that she was unable to do. Without question God moved her by His Spirit to believe and say yes, to Gabriel’s annunciation, but all that she did was receive His gift. This of course was no small thing as she received Him for us all - Her opened heart allowed our hearts to be opened up to receive Him, just as she did. Since she becomes the Lord’s blessed Mother, we can all become His children. Because He perfected her life in His blessedness our lives can be perfected in and by Him.
No less than this has happened for you beloved, in your baptism into Him. As surely as He took up a place in Mary’s womb, by water and the Word of God He took up a place in you in the font. there He placed His life over yours - making you blessed in Him - covering over all your wrongs with His life - fulfilling all that was lacking in you with His righteousness - making good on all your flops and failures with His perfection.
All … I repeat all of your life … all your commitments … all your obligations … all your duties … are well done … perfected in Christ. And so it’s time to stop beating yourselves up about them. Doing so is simply denying the work of your Saviour for you. When God looks at you all that He sees is the perfection of His Son. So what are you looking at? What are you hanging your head about? No, no beloved. Blessed … blessed are you because of the fruit of Mary’s womb. If you doubt it, just look here to altar and see the Blessing One who comes to you to renew you in the truth of your blessedness in Him by once more uniting Himself to you in His flesh and blood. The week gone, covered in the perfection of Christ, the week to come, blessed with His blessedness.
And do not doubt, beloved, that as the Son of God gives you the help of His life that He will also make you helpers fit for Him … just as He did in Mary … as we see her today going in great humility to help her cousin Elizabeth in her need. Christ serves. It is what He must do because of who He is and so as He is in you He will serve through you and draw you into His service. Help. Yes, we can all use a lot of that and in Christ you have it, beloved, and will be it to others to His glory. Amen.