Coming in 2018- I will write weekly, posting on Tuesdays. For now, Merry Christmas and check out the sermon from this morning!
Preached on the 4th Sunday of Advent 2017 at New Light Lutheran Church.
For the last 6 months or so there has been angst and wringing of hands among pastors and church councils about what to do with this worship service. Christmas Eve is on a Sunday we have all said. What should we do? We’ve torn our hair. Should we move Advent up a week and cancel Sunday morning worship services all together? Or just scrap Advent 4 and make the morning services our Christmas Eve service? Some churches did that. But among all of us who found the idea of cancelling church on Sunday morning for no good reason except a fear that no one would come unacceptable, we have been talking for months about you. Who would be there to hear about Mary and light the 4th Advent candle. Who would show up in the morning on Christmas Eve? So you should all take a bow- you are famous. I have wondered for months- is anyone gonna be there? So say it with me- Yes! Here I am!!
And thanks be to God for you. What you don’t know maybe is that saying that “Here I am” is a profound faith statement- something the true heroes of the faith say all the way through scripture. Abraham hears God calling his name to stop him from sacrificing his son and when he hears a voice from heaven calling him – he says “Here I am.” When Moses sees a bush burst into flame and not be consumed and a voice from it says HIS name- he kicks off his shoes and says “Here I am.” When young Samuel is sleeping- 4 times he hears his name being called and he says “Here I am.” All 4 times. When the prophet Isaiah is called and God says Who shall I send- he answers, “Here I am.” When Jacob has a dream and God said “Jacob, Jacob” he responded, “Here I am.” When a messenger comes to Ananias and asks him to go and talk to Saul who has been persecuting Christians- he says “here I am.”
Over and over and over again in scripture – when God or an angel with a message from God comes to a person – while it might be instinct to hide from a voice and light you don’t recognize calling your name- they don’t hide. While it may be instinct to hide from God knowing how fallible and sinful you are- they don’t hide. When God calls their name – they answer- “Here I am.”
In her short life, Mary couldn’t have experienced all that much. Some joy for sure- some birthdays and Passovers, some celebrating with family, and some grief. She had become engaged. There were exciting things in her future. But, her life to this point was not extraordinary. It was decidedly ordinary.
Until one day when an angel named Gabriel comes to her. To her and Gabriel knows her. An angel says to her- Greetings, favored one. Can you imagine? What does it feel like to have a messenger from the very presence of God not only appear to you but to name you- favored. A favored child of God. Known among the company of heaven as favored of God. Greetings favored one- and not only that but God is with you. Then the angel tells her do not be afraid- and then Gabriel repeats himself- you have found favor with God.
Then comes the plan- a plan about conceiving and carrying the Son of God- the promised Messiah- whose kingdom will have no end. And Mary is overwhelmed- how can this be – and the angel tells her explaining that God who has always done impossible things has already done an impossible thing with her relative Elizabeth. Because nothing is impossible with God.
And there it is again. “Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Here I am. I don’t understand it. I can barely get my head around it. I don’t know why you chose me. But, here I am. I am showing up for God’s will in my life. I am saying yes- to God’s will for my life. Here I am- and God I trust you- your plan and whatever comes next – even when I can barely conceive it.
Here I am – what a powerful faith statement. There are no footnotes. No caveats. No OK, if…s Here I am- I am all in for whatever you are calling me to.
There’s a quote that is attributed to Woody Allen although the citations are all sorts of fuzzy on the percentages. 90%, 80%, 50% 75% anyway let’s go with 75%- 75% of success is just showing up. Well with God 100% is about showing up. 100% is about those three words- Here I am.
When a stuttering fugitive said them- God used him to break the chains of slavery and to get Pharaoh to let his people go. When a trusting nomad said them- he became the father of nations. When a man trusted them enough to walk right up to the political enemy who was executing his people – Saul became Paul and shared the word across the Gentiles. And when an ordinary girl from Nazareth said them – she gave birth to the one who would save us all.
Here I am. There is surrender in those words. There is trust in those words. And there is potential that takes my breath away.
In the next 48 hours you and I are going to show up all over the place. Some of us will walk into homes of family and friends and say “here I am.” Some of us will be answering the call of grandchildren or children or parents saying where are you- and say “here I am.” Some of us will be present with people by phone or text – some of us will walk into hospital rooms or nursing homes and show up for people. “Here I am.” We may come bearing gifts- we may bring only our hearts full of love.
What does it look like for you and I to show up for God this Christmas and into this next year? What if right here today we say in our hearts to God- here I am- I am all in for what you would ask of me next. May your gospel be proclaimed Lord- and if there is a way my life- and the places I am going to show up can be a part of that proclamation- Here I am.
God can do great things with you- I am certain of it. I am certain because I know God has already done great things FOR you. God has called you beloved. God has chosen you and named your name among the whole company of heaven as favored and worthy – worth showing up in the most vulnerable way possible for- worth dying for. God has seen you and through Mary and through the cross said those three words to you- Here I am. And there is not one thing in this world or the next- not death, not life, no powers or heights or depths or anything in all of creation that will ever separate you from my love.
God has shown up for you- and in response- whether you are afraid or excited or overwhelmed or just not sure what difference your life could make- dare to trust that God who is there with you can do more than you can imagine. Dare to say these words to God- here I am. Then breathe- and see what God does next. Amen.