Sunday, December 23, 2012

Waiting on the Lord


December 23, 2012
Advent IV
Fr. Philip Eberhart


Waiting on the Lord
Audio File
  

Well, welcome to the second day past the end of the world!!  Apparently the Mayans were wrong,  or…  the calendar just ended.  I saw a cartoon of one Mayan asking the other why the calendar stopped there, and he said, “I ran out of rock!”

It may be just that simple, when it comes to the Mayans, and we get wrapped up in and mesmerized with fantasies, while the world around us laughs.

I also saw two other cartoons this weekend:  One had an absent-minded Jesus saying,

“That end of the world thing!   That was today?”  and another had Jesus saying, “End the world, 4 days before my birthday!  No Way!”

So once again we can get on with the living of life and the loving of others, as we have been commanded to do all along.

I think there is a reason why, over and over the Lord tells us in Scripture that “the day and the hour” are above our pay grade!  Once he even said they are above His, but are in the hands of the Father.

But this past week, has brought something to the fore for me, as I’ve talked with people about the end of the world (given that there was no real sense of fear here) – I’ve wondered what life would be like for us, if we lived our lives in expectation of His appearing?

This Sunday we center on the experience of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in our readings and songs.  There was one line that really struck me as I read through the readings this week:  the last line of the Gospel reading:

“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." 

This was spoken of Mary by her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of the prophet, John, the Baptizer, Jesus’ cousin.  And it was spoken of Mary, in the first few days or weeks of her pregnancy; in fact Luke has her going to stay with Elizabeth right after the Annunciation by the Angel Gabriel.  There is no outward and visible sign of the Lord’s fulfillment of the Angelic word.  

“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

Waiting for the end of the world – let me say it a bit better – waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ in Glory for us in these days, is not unlike what Mary went through as she waited for His first advent. 

In effect we are “pregnant” with faith for the Kingdom of God to come.

Mary was incredulous at the things that were said to her.  Even the greeting, “favored one!” she pondered as she heard it!  

This morning I want to place us and today in the place of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

She has been given a promise, but there are no outward signs, other than this visitation and the words spoken to her at the Annunciation.  

When we think of Christ’s second coming, we have no outward signs to go by, other than His words, describing the times and the overarching attitudes of men and women.  No dates or even world events that can be collated with dates, for certain.  We are stuck with faith! 

Just like Mary, at the point of our gospel, all she had was faith. 

Have you ever felt that way?  Kind of believing against all the evidence?  I know I have.

And the angel’s words ring – “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

And Mary’s response to the angel is fantastic!  Would that our response to God and His promises would be like this:

Behold the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your Word.”

In the life of our parish, we have heard over and over again the Big Three for working in the Kingdom of God:

Willingness – Availability and Obedience;   all three here are in view with Mary.
 
As she goes down the road to visit with her cousin, Mary must have been awash in the moments with the Angel and awash in the promise of His words.  I think every mother is aware of these moments – of new life forming inside – even at its earliest stages.  There are physical changes that begin to happen very quickly.

But for Mary, the most significant change was the spiritual place she found herself in.

“Hail, favored one. The Lord is with you.”

Take a moment and do a personal inventory of your own spiritual position in relation to the Father, especially in relation to His favor on your life and His presence in it. 

You see, Mary was given a foretaste in this experience, of what we have been ushered into as a result of the birth and of the death of her child.

 

Favor

Was it that Mary was especially holy, that she had a special upbringing or special circumstances of birth herself – we don’t really know those things apart from legend.

What we do know is that Mary was a young lady, perhaps we would even call her a girl still, today.  We know that she was in the lineage of David, as was Joseph, her intended.
 
We know that this set of circumstances, pregnant before the wedding, was not considered by many to be a place of “favor” in that society.  Yet, here she was.

The most amazing feature of Mary’s walk for me, is her willingness:  “Be it unto me according to your Word.”

Val once asked me, “Could Mary have said, No!”  I have to say she could have.  We all have the capacity as humans to say No to God.  “No Lord” is one of my favorite oxymorons!  And Mary chose availability to God call, to His word concerning her, and she obeyed that word.

Favor is something that God bestows on us as a gift of grace.  His grace working in and through our hum drum, plain Jane life.  “God chooses us,” Jesus told his disciples, “and He calls us His friends!”  Amazing words.

And those words are words that have promise for us, the same promise that the words of the angel held for Mary 

“The Lord is with you.”

 

Presence

Jesus modeled this, as well as his mother.  Perhaps it is one of the things that Mary passed on from her parentage of Jesus – a dependence on the real presence of God in her life, for the fulfillment of His Word to her.  There was no other source possible!

Mary could not “help out” with this project!  

And we can not “help out” with the work that God is doing inside us – and we should not help out with the work that God wants to accomplish through us!

In fact, the more we “help out” the more we mess things up, in my experience.

So we need to keep in mind the theme of being “pregnant with faith and with the Kingdom of God” and know that this is not something that can be managed.

God’s presence inside us is accomplished by our out-and-out surrender, as I mentioned last week – Hands UP!!   It is surrender to God that opens our hands and our hearts to the movement of His Spirit in and then through us.

This is our inheritance and our bequest.  The Holy Spirit is the deposit – the down payment on our life eternal – in the here and now!  

So we must watch Mary, and model our life and our ministry after her and after her Son, Jesus, the Christ.

“… blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

 

Let us pray.

Lord, we believe. 

We pray that like Mary, the Mother of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we may be enabled to hear your voice speaking and to trust in Your Word to us.  Give us patience to rest in your providence and provision.  Give us faith to believe. Give us grace to persevere in the face of obstacles and adversity.

Let your will be done for us, Lord, according to Your Word.  We declare to you our willingness ( I declare to you my willingness).  Lord, show me where my willingness to be yours and to serve you fades.

And move me, Lord.  Move me from willingness to availability, Lord.  Clear my head and heart of busyness and make room in my schedule for you and for your work!

And finally, Lord Jesus, help us, help me to be obedient – to do your work in your way and in your time, each day.  Let me not run ahead of you or lag behind you in my obedience.  Help me to keep in step with Your Spirit.

For the sake of your Kingdom, Jesus, and for the fame of Your Name, we pray.

Amen.

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