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1 of 2 A sermon preached by the Rev. Linda Harrison on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 21, 2008 Year B – II Samuel 7.1-11, 16; Psalm 89.10-4, 19-26; Romans 16.25-27; Luke 1.26-38 Are you ready? We have had four Sundays to prepare – twenty-two days in Advent, so far, in order to get ready. So, are you ready? You only have two more days to prepare. For what are you preparing, anyway? There is a baby coming; but none of us needs to decorate a nursery or stock up on diapers. We do not need to read birthing books or buy the newest stroller/car seat contraption. We are not sending out birth announcements. For what are we preparing? * * * * * King David, safe and snug after years of running and warring, now wants to see God safe and snug in a house, also. David had been on the run from King Saul after the prophet Samuel delivered God’s message that Saul had lost Divine favor and had now anointed David as king of Israel. Saul was pretty angry and took it out on David. After Saul and David reconciled, David continued to battle for land and territory for many years, campaigning away from home against the Philistines. At this point in the story from this morning’s reading in the Hebrew Testament, David is home and settled. He wants to see God settled, too. God interrupts David’s plan and rejects the human notion of “settled”. God rejects being confined to a static place. The writer of this story underscores this view with phrases like, “I have been moving about [with my people]” and “I have been with you wherever you went”. God dwells among the people, not in an artificial edifice. God makes of the people a home and an empire; the people do not make homes and empires for God. This is a surprising twist in a time when and a culture where rulers of countries and territories showed off their power, might, and wealth by the size of their palaces and temples. God tells David that David’s might and authority do not rest in buildings, but in God’s words and promises alone. Fast forward a few centuries. Talk about surprising twists! By co-opting the language of the Roman Empire and using it treasonously, God interrupts a young woman’s life. God sends an angel to a political hot spot to announce to Mary that she will bear a child who will rival the Caesars of Rome. Nazareth was a dicey place. The poorest of the poor barely eked out a living in that region. The abject poverty in the area bred contempt among the Jews for the Roman Empire and their supposed Pax Romana – the “peace of 2 of 2 A sermon preached by the Rev. Linda Harrison on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 21, 2008 Year B – II Samuel 7.1-11, 16; Psalm 89.10-4, 19-26; Romans 16.25-27; Luke 1.26-38 Rome”. Their contempt fueled Jewish nationalism and insurrections were not uncommon in the area. Before Jesus is even born, he is wreaking political havoc by interrupting the status quo and usurping the titles and powers reserved solely for the Caesars: divine parentage and birth, divine status, reigning in perpetuity. God, in Jesus, wreaking holy havoc. Luke never meant his version of the birth narrative to be a cozy scene of domestic tranquility. We have lost the urgency in the vocabulary that Luke uses. The Annunciation is not the only place Luke uses seditious language to tell his tale. Mary’s song of praise, also known as the Magnificat, is full of treasonous words, as are Luke’s version of the birth of Jesus and the language Luke puts in the mouths of the angels announcing the birth of the Christ to the shepherds. Everything about this story is in direct contradiction to the sentimentality with which we typically surround the story of Jesus’ birth. God interrupts and God interrupts in the most unsettling ways - holy havoc. Are you prepared to be interrupted and unsettled? God does not “play it safe”. God does not go along with the political status quo; God refuses to be safely ensconced in a house of cedar; God will not remain safely “out there” somewhere beyond the realm of creation. God moved with the people of Israel through the wilderness and God let David know that that would continue to be God’s way. Luke’s story tells us that indeed God does continue to move with us in our messy wilderness. God continues to dwell among the people and refuses to be set apart. God makes of the people a home. * * * * * Yes, a baby is coming. Are you prepared? Not with diapers and layette sets, but with your heart. That baby is the Incarnate Word of God, God’s unsettling interruption in our lives: God dwelling among us. That baby announces that God does not intend to stay at a safe distance from us, contained, domesticated, and settled. Have you prepared your heart to become God’s dwelling place? Based on today’s reading, and my own experience, I am certain that God will wreak holy havoc. Are you prepared? Amen.
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