Sermon lessons and carols 2006Pyrmont
In the face of . .
The continuing destruction of humans in Iraq
The ongoing persecution of Christians in Indonesia
The poverty in Bangladesh
The starvation of most of the population of North Korea
The fires in Victoria and Tasmania
The rising level of indigenous suffering in this country
And the drought and climate change which promise to alter our lifestyles dramatically. . .
We are having a celebration!
And even though many ARE ambivalent about Christmas, we still celebrate.
The ambivalence is interesting.
Nativity scene in carpark – reminder J & M couldn’t find a car spot? Or donkey spot?
Chamber of Commerce to Council re open markets
Well, in the face of the crass commercialization we are all caught up in,
Despite the suffering of millions of other human beings
We are celebrating!
All societies celebrate New Year, not all celebrate Christmas.
So is this another example of Aussie over-indulgence?
We really DO like to party!
Or have we just fallen for the advertising moguls again?
Human beings love to try and work out what’s going to happen in the future.
Whether it’s the sex of an unborn baby, the winning of the grand final in our favourite sport, Lotto, the All Ordinaries, or the weather, because we are made in the image of God we think about the future. In other words, we live with hope. We have hopes and dreams.
Listen to the rubbish, or read the nonsense called astrology in the media and you’ll realize how much we as a race want to know the future, want to be able to tell the future, or want others to tell us.
Family Choice morning tea.
When a new baby is born into a family, of course there are these sorts of reactions.
Besides “Seen one baby , seen them all”,
Most parents, grandparents begin to plan for the child’s future
PM one day
Run BHP Billiton
Even names: Grace, Felicity, Andrew (strong and manly)
Truth is, of course, that despite these attempts at prophecy, as the cynic said, most people get 10 minutes of fame in their lives, and as the poet said, most men live lives of quiet desperation.
For all the billions of people who have ever lived, it is actually only a handful who ever make their mark
Who are remembered years let alone millennia later.
We might want to be, our family might be determined that we will be . . . .
Deryck!! as a kid, when I found out the meaning of my name. . . my imagination was fertile with images of people bowing to me acknowledging me etc etc
But despite all the hopes, all the predictions, the most we can expect is an epitaph on a gravestone or in a wall somewhere that someone might be tending in 100 years.
If I say the name “Mary” who or what pops into your mind?
Why is that?
Why, 2 millennia after her life, in a land she could not even have dreamed of, should THAT Mary spring to mind?
When we first meet her in the pages of the Bible she’s in deficit mode.
Perhaps mid-teens, but pregnant before marriage
Betrothed to an older man, perhaps 20 or so, who although he knows the law of public shaming decides to break the law and try to arrange for a quiet divorce, but a divorce nevertheless.
Her baby is in the sights of the paranoid king of Israel, Herod the Great
So she and her husband and baby become asylum seekers
And then her baby becomes the cause of death of a score or so of other little boys.
Not necessarily reasons why when I ask you who pops into your mind when I mention the name Mary, your mind goes immediately to this Mary.
What is extraordinary is that she knew it would!
“from now on all generations will call me blessed”
Here she is speaking a prophecy. Telling the future.
And what’s more, she has proven to be spot on.
Hundreds of millions of people, billions, know her name and think of her as singularly blessed.
Each year she is remembered in re-enactments of what took place as one of the two highlights of her life
Artwork - Breughel
Of course, it’s because her prophecy HAS come true.
In the reading s from the Bible we’ve had today there’s a theme which I trust you picked up.
It’s the theme of fulfillment.
Fulfilment of what was promised long before
We are familiar with this – corny level, but take a will. That’s a prophecy if you like.
When I die my $3 will be divided up among my kids.
Now that’s what is was like with the birth, life and death and resurrection and ascension and promised return of Mary’s Son.
Sometimes this – that all this was prophesied – is a bit of a surprise to people.
That his nativity should have been foretold long before, millennia before it took place is quite unexpected.
Yet it is there in the pages of the Bible some of which we’ve listened to this morning.
And that’s because we are reading/hearing/seeing at work GOD himself.
½ way through!
Notice how Mary in this song of delight speaks of God
NB – don’t have to argue for his existence – we all know
HERE – GOD who took ancient Israel as his own people – the apple of his eye, my son, my child . . .about 1700 BC (Abraham)
Through thick and thin he saved them – rescued them
Not a specially religious word – cp my sailing.
Only and with great sadness did it all fall apart when as ungrateful wretches they turned their back on him.
BUT – even THEN – 5th Cent BC – he rescued them!
And promised an even greater rescue than that.
Notice how political it sounds? – and it is! Oppressors, rulers etc
YET MORE – it is figurative.
It speaks of rescue from a far more permanent and difficult bondage.
That of what the Bible calls sin.
Human rejection of GOD.
And notice that the sort of language here is what Jesus himself uses as he speaks of what he himself came to do.
Particularly all the language about putting down the might from their seat and exalting the humble and meek.
Does this have nothing to say both about us and to us?
Even though we celebrate while so many suffer, our celebration is not without knowledge of their plight or concern for their circumstances.
We know that in Mary’s Son and in Mary’s Son alone lies hope.
We know that whether you are wealthy and living in Australia or starving in a field in N Korea there is a greater need you have.
Which perhaps the starving teenager in N Korea is more open to than we are
A need which in order to realize it will mean the overturning of all human pretensions
The need for rescue, for mercy, for forgiveness by God himself.
Unless there is that recognition, you will think you are rich but you will be poor.
You will think you are someone when you are a nobody
You will think you are a success when you are an abject failure
You will think you are satisfied when you are starving
Later Jesus was to say : I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to R
Those who are well . . .
i.e. the human problem is that we are out of sorts with our creator.
Apathy, rebellion, hell to pay!
But, as Mary shows and prophecied, God was going to be merciful to such rebels.
Where there should by rights have been judgement, there would be mercy
Where there should have been condemnation there would be forgiveness
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled
Do you know that mercy?
Can you say MY SAVIOUR with Mary?
How do we know this is all true and will come true?
NOT like “gods” – many, remote, self-interestedne are called Almighty
But the Almighty God the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is!
Seen in creation of all things
BUT Mostly in death and resurrection of Mary’s Son.
How can we ignore such a great rescue package as this?
Take your place with Mary
God the merciful, God the Mighty through Jesus.