Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sermon for Advent 4: "Where Is God?"

+ Advent 4, December 23, 2012 +
Redeemer, HB
Series C: Micah 5:2-5; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-56

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Where is God?
            A lot of people have been asking that question lately. Maybe you’re still wrestling with that question this morning: Where was God in Newtown, CT that Friday morning when 28 people, 20 of whom were children, were murdered for reasons we’ll never know? The politicians, pundits and religious zealots all have their opinions – personally, I’m tired of them all; no one has answers, at least none that will silence the questions.
            Maybe you’ve asked the same question for more personal reasons: as friends or family suffer in the ICU or on chemotherapy or recovering from surgery…or not. Maybe you’ve attended a few too many funerals this past year. Or maybe it’s all you can do to pay the bills and or keep your health insurance payments manageable. Here we sit, overwhelmed by the darkness of sin and surrounded by the shadow of death.
Where is God?
            We’re not the first ones to ask; look at the OT. Noah had the rainbow and Abraham Isaac. Moses had the burning bush and Israel had the tabernacle, the Ark and the pillar of fire and cloud. And David had the promise of an everlasting throne. But after hundreds of years in and one wicked king after another, after the temple was razed and Israel exiled, after the prophets’ preaching all the waiting, so much waiting…the question remained the same: Where is God?

            The world out there has all sorts of answers for you: “There is no god; why else would bad things happen to good people? There is no god; Jesus is just another myth, a crutch to make you feel better.” But that doesn’t answer our questions either. But here’s God’s unexpected answer: Mary was pregnant with God. God became man. Myth became fact.

            We don’t live in a world of mythological sin or make-believe evil; sin, death, and the crafty Serpent are all too real. And we don’t live in a world with an absent God. Hidden – yes. But not gone on endless vacation. No, not this God. Sin, death and hell are all too real for him as well.

            What would you do if your beloved creation and creatures that you pronounced “very good” were suffering? You’d want do what any parent would do if it was their child in trouble. You’d move heaven and earth to save them. You’d give your life – trade places with your child’s – if that meant sparing them from agony. You’d take a bullet for them. Well, so would Jesus. He already has, for the world…for you.

            For behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us; He became a child so that we should be called the children of God.  He moves heaven to earth, his throne to Mary’s womb and takes human flesh into God. He trades places with you in birth, life and death. And He rose from Adam’s dust to embrace you in his death and resurrection.
            This world is a lonely place – full of sin and death and dark deeds. You are not alone in the darkness. While we’re busy looking up to heaven, asking God, “Where are you?” God is busy coming down to us. God answers through Micah’s still, small prophetic voice:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
One who is Ruler in Israel,
Whose coming forth is from of old,
From ancient days.”

            Christ comes to us, not in the halls of Herod or the courts of Caesar, but in the darkness of Mary’s womb. Christ descends to our deepest abyss, the manger and the cross. He dwells with us in death’s dark shadows. The night will soon be ending; for Mary’s stomach grows like the rising sun. Elizabeth greets Mary’s womb as one greets daybreak after a long, dark night. John leaps for joy as the Light of the world dawns on men, himself a man. God one ups himself. Out of the nothingness of Mary’s womb, the Word who makes all things, makes for himself a human body. Once again, God calls forth: “Let there be Light”…and it was so. Light and Life in human frame. Behold the Light of God who takes away the darkness of the world. The Light that no darkness can overcome. And behold, He is very good.

            Where is God? Just ask Mary or Elizabeth...or better yet, John. From the watery pulpit of Elizabeth’s womb, John delivers his first sermon with his feet. Even in utero, John is the forerunner. He answers our question with an exuberant kick as if he was going to wiggle right out of Elizabeth’s womb - he leaped for joy. And well he should…and well should we.

            For if seas roar, and rivers clap their hands; if mountains and hills sing together; if the mouths of infants and nursing babes and unborn prophets shout for joy – if all these, with one heart and mouth, glorify God on the day of His visitation, how much more should we? For Mary’s song is the song of the redeemed. The Mighty One has done great things for Mary and Elizabeth and John and you. (Chad Bird).

            God is no longer in a burning bush, nor in a pillar of cloud, nor seated between the cherubim. The old things have passed away and new things have come. The God who in days of old brought forth Eve from Adam’s flesh now brings forth the New Adam from the New Eve’s flesh. “This One is now bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh; He shall be called Man, because He was taken out of woman.”(Bird).
            Although he is a week old and roughly the size of a blueberry, Jesus is both God and zygote, God and blastocyst, God and Man. Jesus is breathing, kicking, wiggling, death-defeating, devil-crushing life.  O sing unto the Lord a new song, for a woman is pregnant with Yahweh.

            Where is God? He sits enthroned in the womb of Mary. He is a growing child. He stands in the sinner’s stead in the Jordan. He is the dinner guest of tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners. He is your humble, suffering servant who lovingly placed your life and the world’s before his own. A lowly messiah who refused to use His divine power to feed his hunger or establish his kingdom. A meek messiah who endured the beatings of a world who didn’t want him. A crucified messiah who conquered the darkness by diving headlong into the darkness, who defeated Death by being swallowed up into Death, and took the world along for the ride. God is pleased as man with man to dwell. Emmanuel. God with us. God who is one of us. God for us.

            For under the cover of darkness, on a Friday afternoon, the innocent Son of God died for you and a world hell-bent on destroying itself. On the cross, Jesus is your fear and doubt, he is your guilt and sorrow, he is your sin and death; he is the beggar, the cancer patient, the homeless and hungry, he is the thief and liar and murderer. He removes the curse by becoming cursed. He fulfills the Law by bearing it for you. He takes your place in judgment. And he is the one crying out with you and for you: “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”  Where is God?

            But don’t be fooled or scandalized by his weakness. For beneath Jesus’ weakness is power. Under His bruised heel is the crushed head of devil. Under the wounds of His hands, His feet, His side is the healing of the nations. Under his crown of thorns is the healing of Sin’s insanity. Under His cry of abandonment is the embrace and love of God for a world gone mad.
            This may not be the kind of God the world looks for, but this is the God who looks for you; who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead and buried. And on the third day he rose again.

            All so that when people ask…Where was God at Sandy Hook? He replies, “I was in the teachers and principal who gave their lives to save others. I was in the first responders, protecting and caring for those in distress. I am in the neighbors and friends serving and caring for their loved ones and neighbors.”

Where is God today?
            “I am with you always…right where I have promised to be: My creative Word again makes something out of nothing, saints out of sinners, the old man is drowned and a new man arises.” Today you will be with me in paradise, for you are baptized in My Name.”
            “John and Micah, my prophets and apostles point you to me, the Lamb of God, your Shepherd, your King, your Savior. My merciful absolution is yours from generation to generation.”
And once again God moves heaven to earth. Here the Bread of Life comes to you in his flesh to feed your flesh and satisfy your hungry bellies with good things: his holy body and blood.
            And God is in you for the neighbor. Christ hides himself in your words of compassion to the neighbor. Christ’s hands are hidden in your hands of mercy. You too are Christ’s manger where he comes to dwell with you in humble, sacrificial love for others.
            Why do we ask lament and ask such questions; is it because we doubt His Word or because we cling so tightly to Christ’s promises we don’t see how we can survive much longer in this world, or is it both? Simultaneously doubter and believer – yes, that’s us. It's ok to ask God where he is; to hold him to his promises. We may have more questions answers. So bring those questions, along with your doubts, fear, sin, guilt, death, sorrow and all that weighs you down – bring it all to the foot of Christ’s manger and his cross. There is God, for you.
And blessed are we who believe that there is a fulfillment of what was spoken to us from the Lord. 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. whew!
    and here is one more reason we ask... the pain is too much to bear and our grip on Jesus is not adequate to the job.