http://lookielooloo.com/1vzUIOPo The Sunday Sermon: Fourth Sunday in Advent – December 18, 2016
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As our proclamation for this fourth Sunday in Advent continues, we find ourselves for the first time this season in one of the two Gospel birth narratives – chapter two of the Gospel of Luke. Listen for the Word of God:
In that regions there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and there were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see, – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sing from you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors.”
The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God …
What strikes us in this passage this year is how the angel voice grows form “one” into a “multitude.” We have been journeying together this Advent Season, gathering in silence and waiting for God in our individual lives, in our life with the Other, in our lives through our families – biological and beyond, and finally today on this last Sunday before Christmas through All … of us.
As we’ve gathered this year and lit the candles of our Advent wreath, we have seen the growth of Love. Beginning with “One” last month, Clare Grant, on the first Sunday in Advent; doubling in size on the Second Sunday when Rick joined her, and doubling again last week as Serayah and Toby stood before us and lit the third candle with their mother and father. This week, only moments ago, we all joined them, completing the journey of Advent. There remains one candle unlit in our wreath. This one, the Christ Candle will be lit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It is the candle that takes “All of Us” and makes us “One” again.
This (wreath) is the sight of “One Voice” from “All of Us.” I draw you attention now to the back of the flyer you received with your bulletin with the words “All of Us” in large print. On the back are the lyrics of our Anthem this morning. We have a role to play in the singing. Walter will lead us in when the time comes.
Now, listen to the sound of “One Voice” … Anthem is sung …
What strikes us this year in Luke’s story about the shepherds in the fields and the angels visitation is how one angel “suddenly” becomes a multitude. We’ve watched that happen, felt that happening, this year as we’ve journeyed together through Advent. From one, a multitude. The difference, I suppose, is that it didn’t happen “suddenly” as it does in Luke’s second chapter. It took us four weeks to get here.
Well, with the words and the impressions of our Anthem this morning still fresh in our memories, I want to suggest that it didn’t happen so “suddenly” on that night in the fields outside of Bethlehem, either. The two birth stories we have in Matthew and Luke in our bible, different as they are, are “overtures” to the rest of their writing. Just as the overture to an opera or piece of musical theatre contains the “themes” of the story you’re about to hear, the birth stories tell, in short form – two chapters, to be exact – what will happen when the story of Jesus begins in earnest with Jesus baptism in the River Jordan.
What happens “suddenly” in the early verses of Luke’s second chapter takes the rest of the Gospel, years in the lives of the disciples and followers we meet, to occur: Being not afraid.
When that one angel, the one who bring the Good News in Luke, showed up and stood before the shepherds to proclaim the Good News, they were “terrified.” This is what will happen to anyone, to everyone, to us when we are confronted with the Way of God in Christ. It is a constant theme in Luke. In Jesus’ first act of public ministry in Nazareth in chapter four, “all in the synagogue” were “filled with rage,” terrified, at his teaching. As he calls his first disciples, we read of their fear: Jesus has to say to them over and over “Do not be afraid ….” The Scribes and Pharisees are the most fearful of all. We are fearful, always holding something back as we live into our discipleship.
But the angel in the field outside of Bethlehem, as Jesus throughout the rest of the gospel, tells the Shepherds and all of us, “Do not be afraid,” and then proceeds to tell them why … they should not be afraid. There is Good News of Great Joy in the world, which is for all the people: “God is with us.” Luke spends the rest of his Gospel sharing that Good News of Great Joy in the teachings and through the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
Most don’t ever understand. Pilate, Herod, the Scribes and Pharisees, remain fearful. Even a few of Jesus’ closest friends never quite understand The Good News he’s sharing with them, with us: Peter denies him. Judas betrays him. Eventually, after his death and through their experience of the Risen Christ, a few did understand and the Good News of Great Joy spread and continues to spread. But in no circumstance was it sudden, in the sense of “immediate.” Before the news can be proclaimed, we must first let go of our fear, be not afraid. And that takes a while.
Here’s how we may imagine it happening this year: We begin alone. This is the sound of one voice. One spirit, one voice. The sound of one who makes a choice, but … First the sound of one voice.
At some point we recognize another, the Other. And then the sound … of voices two. The sound of me singing with you; Helping each other to make it through. Still, this is only the sound of voices two.
So we look for more. And these are the sounds of family. Singing together in harmony. Surrendering to the mystery. This is the sounds of family. But that’s not enough.
So … “suddenly” there is with the few a “multitude.” And this is the sound of all of us. Singing with love and the will to trust. Leaving the rest behind as it turns to dust. This is the sound of all of us.
And as we all sing together, we hear the sound … of One voice. One people, One voice. A song for everyone of us. This is the sound of One voice. This is the sound of One Voice:
“Do not be afraid; for see –
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.
To you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior,
who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Glory to God and on earth … peace.
On Christmas Eve we will gather to light the candle that makes us One. We have six days to join the angel song.
May it be so. Amen.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / December 18, 2016