Wednesday, December 16, 2009

advent 3.4

(from LWCC, 13 December 2009, part iii: continued from here and here)

Zechariah and Elizabeth, like father Abraham and mother Sarah, and like you and me, were ordinary people, living in days when living was a struggle, as it often is. Our stories are not so different from theirs. We're all, in our deepest hearts and inside the walls of each home, waiting for very specific things. Some of us are waiting for work to do so we can fill our days and feed our families. Some of us are waiting for shattered relationships to be mended. Some of us are waiting to hold our own babies in our arms, like Elizabeth and Sarai. Some of us are waiting for God to speak, to break the silence, to respond to our prayers that reach heaven like sweet incense. Some of us are waiting for freedom from addiction or affliction, healing from our pain and sickness, fullness where all seems empty.

Some of us have known waiting, too, in ways others of us can only imagine. Some of us have known the breath-holding agony of waiting in hiding for danger to pass. Some of us have known the wrenching ache of waiting for a meal. Some of us have known the slow and daily pain of waiting to know if people we love are alive or dead. Some of us have known the waiting of true exile, unable to return home, the extended waiting of a camp, and finally the waiting for this place to become home, for this language to express our hearts, for this community to be our own.

We are waiting for selfishness, and war, and struggle, and inequality to be overcome; we are waiting for the way of life to win out over the way of death, for the sun of righteousness to rise with healing in its wings. We are, all together, waiting. Now. Together, as a church, we are waiting for a good word from Yahweh.

On this third Sunday of Advent, may we be encouraged in that waiting. May we remember, through the long history of God's everlasting love for all creation, that Yahweh God is a keeper of promises.

May we see in the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah the mysterious truth that the private longings we wait to see answered may have far-reaching effects; our stories are never ours alone. It is true when Elizabeth praises God for blessing her; but in her son John, God also blessed us all.

May we see, as well, that Yahweh's interventions in human history are often surprisingly mundane; through the body of a simple woman, a new era is born. This is Zechariah's Spirit-inspired realization we heard in three languages this morning, spoken out after the birth and naming of John, a realization of coming salvation, God's tender mercies, forgiveness of sins, light and life.

And may we take to heart the message of that longed-for son, the message of another longed-for Sun. May we mull over in our minds the words we heard last week about this answer to Elizabeth and Zechariah's prayer, this forerunner of the fulfillment of the promise first made to Abram and Sarai: There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all people might believe. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

Even so come, Lord Jesus.

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