DATE:22 December 2013
TO:Yogyakarta International Congregation
THEME:INTENTIONALITY (Color: Purple Topic: Love)
TITLE:Commanded to Love: Accept God’s Will
4th CANDLE – (purple) THE ANGEL CANDLE or THE CANDLE OF LOVE
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)
Hebrew Scripture- Isaiah 7:10-14. Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19. Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us. Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. How long, Lord God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people? You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful. You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us. Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself. Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
Gospel Reading- Matthew 1:18-25. This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about : His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Accept God’s Will
Today is the 4th Sunday of Advent. As I shared with you a few weeks ago, Advent, is a season of waiting. Waiting for something spectacular to occur. Waiting for something unexpected to come forth! Advent is waiting for the arrival of something notable.
Well, if we were in the US and we were driving around Hartford, CT you might be surprised today at the length of the long lines (queues) in the mall. People waiting: waiting to pay for gifts, waiting to pay for their new outfits, waiting to meet Santa Claus! After a while you of waiting in the queues you would probably ask yourself, what is Advent Season all about?!
I have to share something with you, Christmas is actually not about Santa. Though Saint Nick was a really cool guy, he was not trying to become a holiday icon…, but let me share with you some magical Christmas gossip: See there are stories about a man named Nicholas who would go out of his way during the Advent Season to see that children had a special treat. But he did not necessarily wear a red and white suit. That might have been a branding strategy that really worked out well for Coca-Cola! So then, if Christmas isn’t about the man in the red suit and even the original Santa Claus may have celebrated Advent..then really what is this season all about? If Christmas has become influenced by our consumerist realities and become a secular holiday…then really we should be asking what is this season all about. What are we who proclaim to be Christians… what are we really celebrating?
To understand what we are celebrating we need to see and hear what the Sacred Scripture says. And to be honest, this is my favorite story to tell. But before I tell it I want you to understand that this story and these characters are not ours alone. Sometimes we forget that Jews and Muslims also have an understanding, an “in”, on these people who Christians love so much.
The last few weeks I have been reading not only the Christian Bible, but I have been reading Hebrew and Muslim texts to see what new insights I could garner about Emmanuel (God is with Us):
In Hebrew tradition, we find a people WAITING for the fulfillment of a prophesy. A promise they did not even dare ask for. Let us set the stage, there is a war going on, between the people of God. And God sends the Prophet Isaiah to speak to Ahaz (King of Judah). And God’s message is pretty clear to understand: calm down, don’t be afraid and don’t panic. Ask ME for a sign of your success against those who conspire against you…
If you read this in The Message translation, The Prophet says to Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from your God. Ask anything. Be extravagant. Ask for the moon!” But Ahaz said, “I’d never do that. I’d never make demands like that on God !” (Isaiah 7:10-12 MSG). And then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel which means God is with you.”
And so the people of “Israel” the Hebrew people, the Jewish people, the descendants of that promise are still waiting. They did not believe in The Virgin Birth… So they are still waiting.
In Muslim scriptures, I found a Mary similar to our Mary, she, like our Mary, spoke to the angel Gabriel and heard about the child she would carry. In Islam, Mary’s maidenhead remains as an irrefutable truth (you can read her story in the Qur’an book called Maryam).
But to understand the intent and purpose of this OUR Advent Season, let us return to the Christian Scriptures. Before I continue, let us pray: …
This weeks sermon is titled: Accept God’s Will
Call to Offering
Breakfast with Jesus
In case no one has ever told you before…today is not about you!! I am so sorry. So sad, too bad! I know it’s so sad to hear. Today, you woke up and you were excited to crawl under the tree and look for your gifts and wow just what I always wanted!!!! Or maybe instead you said…uuum thanks and made a mental roll of the eyes (if you had my mother, you better not get caught!).
I remember being a kid and looking forward to the season of advent thinking, about the gifts that I wanted. My mother and grandmother would tell Luis and I the story of the birth of Baby Jesus, preparing us for the day that the Wise Men would finally get to our house, but you had to remember to fill your shoe box with hay for the camels! You see, for us the big gift day is still two weeks away.
But I remember, I remember my grandmothers manger, each piece set up slowly, like pieces of a puzzle, and I remember the story.
Mary (Luke 1: 26-38)
First Abuela Yeco would have us visit with Mary. No, not Mary, the mother of Jesus, this was the Mary she used to be. Before they had stuff to say about her. We would look at her and talk about who she was, most of you remember that talk right: Did you hear what they said about Mary? The pregnant virgin! The marry who teaches us that the world is going to say what they want, but they don’t know the you that God knows. They don’t know your worth, how can they, when they can’t see into your heart.
Joseph (Matthew 1: 18-24)
Then we would hang out with Joseph, the Joseph who had a dream where an angel spoke to him, an Angel who changed his plans. See, for Joseph life was going perfectly well. According to his plans and his traditions! Joseph had met a beautiful girl named Mary. The bible doesn’t say she was beautiful, but for a man to decide he is finally ready to settle down and get married, she had to be HOT!! And not just was her outside good, her inside, the core of her, was even better. She had a great reputation. See in the older translations the word virgin means pure of heart, God-centered, innocent in every sense of the word. Joseph and Mary, decide they are meant to be together and begin planning their wedding day. Things are going smoothly, everything according to their plans. Just picture it:
What I’m about to say is true. Joseph asked for Mary’s hand in marriage, they have already bought their new home, they had furniture together, that’s how far along they were. Mary is practically living at his parents’ house, making sure she knows how to cook his favorite foods, learning from his family what life with Joseph will be like! They probably have already sent out invitations. The caters are almost paid up! When an angel tells Joseph that Mary, his Mary is pregnant! And even though it was a dream he asks her about it in the morning…imagine how bad of a dream it must have been for him to remember it and tell her all about it. And then…IT’S TRUE! Talk about a hassle…what would his boys have to say about that? Which one of them would claim to have been with her? But this is Mary. His Mary. The Godly Mary that has always been respectable…
Everything according to plan. Their plan, but God is the planner and the executer of all plans. He can change them, He can rearrange them, see unlike our plans, God’s plans have purpose and reason that go far beyond our greatest imaginings. Joseph does the unimaginable…Joseph, during possibly the darkest of times, when people are talking about him, when his girls reputation is in the gutter, when any other guy would run away…he sticks around!! WAIT….
Last week the Pastora said, WAIT, en lo que…!!! And when she said it, I don’t know about you, but I thought aaaah not me! I can’t wait. I have things to do and places to go and if this is not for me, PEACE OUT DUDE!! I am out of here.
See, waiting is not for the faint of heart, waiting the kind of waiting Joseph did, deciding to sit with her, stick by her, let the haters hate and wait to see who this UNBORN BABY REALLY WAS…all while doing NO-THING, but expecting something to happen, stopping so those haters could catch up to what you already know…It is not for the faint of heart.
Jesus (Luke 2: 1-21)
And then, on a night like last night, Abuela would finally get to my favorite part of the story… I told you it was like a puzzle right! She would set up the manger and have an empty food trough all ready for the animals to eat and I would think to myself, where is the baby?!
But, on a night like last night, on a cold night when nothing seems to go according to plan. A star shined bright. What I’m about to say is true. Having travelled on foot and by donkey, from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem (think about it from New Britain to NYC) – Joseph and his very pregnant wife arrived at an inn…and the star shined brighter…and they knocked and they waited and there was no room. And they went door to door, they knew everyone was traveling trying to to make sure they were counted in the census, but Joseph and Mary needed a room! And the star got brighter…So they knocked. Door to door. Inn by inn. They knocked. Mary felt pains and she was uncomfortable, and they knocked. Mary was dilating and she bit her tongue and they waited. And finally on the outskirts of town some body opens the door and says my house is full, but you can sleep in my manger.
And Jesus, the Jesus we have been waiting for, was born in the most uncomfortable of situations. Not ideal at all!
But on the day of his birth, his Heavenly Father, sent messengers of good tidings to the shepherds of the land, those living in the fields. And off in the distance, too far to even imagine, that star that shined just for him was seen by wise men who had been preparing his physical gifts as his father had put into their hearts. And the shepherds in the field…to them suddenly appeared a great company of angels, praising God and singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
And far from the city of Nazareth, on the outskirts of a town called Galilee, behind a farmers cottage, was a cave where animals lived, and in the cave was Mary (formerly a pregnant virgin, now the loving mother of the Son of God), Joseph (a man who out of love, stepped up when most of us would have run away), and Jesus (who, according to his Heavenly Father’s plan, would save the world). For unto us is born this day, a savior: and he was a gift just for us, from our Divine Creator!
God, What can I offer you as poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise one, I would do my part, God all that I am thanks YOU and all that I have YOU gave to me… what can I offer: all of my heart. Amen.
May we hold fast to this sliver of mystery,
this truth upon which we set the whole of who we are.
May we call ourselves back to it
time and again,
until we are filled with the wonder that is our life–
its hope, its peace, its joy, its love.
Infused, then, with all that we are,
may our energies be given
to the transformation of this world–
from despair into hope;
from darkness into light;
from fear into love.
May we be bold .
May we be daring.
May we be love.
GO IN PEACE.