Sermon: Advent 3A
Divine Interruption: “Laying Troubles Aside”: God brings good gifts
Matthew 11:2-11 11:2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 11:3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” 11:4 Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 11:5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 11:6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” 11:7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 11:8 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 11:9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 11:10 This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 11:11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
She thought that angel had come to the wrong house. She was just a girl – a girl from the back blocks – a place where nothing much ever happens and no one ever notices.
But when Jesus finally came she forgot all about her pain and relationship issues, and community judgements. Jesus has that affect on people. The troubles remain but he changes you in them and you can let your troubles go and be caught up in him.
John the Baptist had plenty of trouble. He was imprisoned and awaiting the fickle hand of the crazy power mogul, Herod. The death knell could come any day.
In his trouble and suffering he just had to know for sure. When he heard that Rabbi Jesus was healing and setting people free and teaching in his own authority, John just had to check again. He asks his helpers to seek out Jesus and ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Good question. Good question for us.
Jesus says, “Yes”. I am that one you have been waiting for – the one for whom you now suffer in prison. Yes John, you were faithful. You are right. You are true because I am right and faithful and true.
“You too, Mary. That angel did not come to the wrong house and good things – even the very best thing – comes from you and your town”.
Do you believe this of yourself, friend? Can good things come to you and from you? Are the angels at the right house this Advent? Is the Holy Spirit at the right heart?
The thing both Mary and John did was trust the good news they heard. John heard his students report back that Jesus said he is the Man. That word of prophecy that Jesus himself uttered in that Capernaum synagogue was true;
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:18-19)
When you hear news you either have to reject it as untrue or embrace it as true and then let the news re-shape your view, your actions and words. That’s why it is news – and not just information or some theory about something. News has to be received and adjusted to. News interrupts us.
The gospel of Jesus is news. It is a divine interruption. It is not information, theory, a philosophical system or even a thing of mere intellectual or emotional agreement. The gospel of this “God with us” is news – good news. The gospel writers don’t inform us, or sit us down in a classroom to teach us a theory of the world or God – they just tell good news; like you do when you heard the news of Nelson Mandela’s death. It was news. You had to trust it was true or reject is as mere inconsequential rumour. News interrupts. News has to be dealt with and adjusted to.
So it is with John. He has heard the good news of God delivering on his promise to make a radical difference to the way of things for human beings and God. And so, John simply had to trust the word of Jesus and what the word was doing in people’s lives. He trusted Jesus with his life.
Same with Mary. Mary had to trust that angel, her husband to be, the voice of God telling her that she is much more valuable to God than she thought and her life was much bigger than she could age ever imagined. She did.
To do that they had to simply receive this news and follow its consequences – easy and hard. For John it was prison and injustice and eventual giving of his life. For Mary it was a long and dangerous trip to an unknown place – birth in a shed, letting go of her boy as he fulfilled his calling, watching him suffer and die in extreme circumstances, losing a son but then receive the incredible mystery of being the one through whom the world was changed forever – for the better.
Is Jesus the one who has come and made your life bigger than it ever could be and more valuable to the world, the church and your family that it would be without him, or are you still looking for someone or something else to make your life count?
Money, accumulation of wealth and property, fame, skill, beating the competitors and etc may seem to deliver a life you want to live, but they are short-term and can’t fill the heart with love and thankfulness and joy.
Jesus’ entry into the world is the beginning of the end of the need to put our life in the hands of all of these things.
Jesus’ life is beginning of a life lived that is neither religious or irreligious, not a life of keeping the rules to earn God’s favour and peace, not ignoring God’s good news and getting ourselves lost in doing whatever we want to do.
Jesus’ presence with us now is the new way – the grace way, the third way – a way of peace that is God-created and sustained and borne out of love for us – pure love, pure life for all – even a Mary from the backblocks and a John in prison.
Well Advent is news. Good news. What are you doing with the news? How are your responding to angels’ voices, shepherds’ witness, a young woman’s trust, a faithful man on death row and his simple and fiery trust in what he hears from Jesus?
The news is coming at you. It is interrupting you – for good reason. God has got the right address and he has come to the right heart – yours. He chose your place and your life to be in today.
His news of presence and peace and new life is no theory or text book presentation – it is news – good news that travels like wild-fire and changes a woman and a man and young person and a child.
Friends, let me say to you what needs to be said this Advent day;
“Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He has come with judgement, no to condemn you but to rightly make account for everything and actually help you, saver you, love you.”
Because of this news and this man and this stable and feeding trough and this living story of faith, your eyes that can be so blind are opened, and the ears that are filled with all the trappings of wealth and activity, and Christmas the worldly way are now unstopped.
With old legs, a broken heart, a damaged mind, a heavy heart, there is room in the inn this Advent for you to leap like a deer, and the there is a calling for us as a local church community to let our speechless tongues wag away because God has changed the weather, broken the dam wall that held us up, cracked open that tough exterior we sometimes hide behind and let his life flood in as we hear this good news of the child.
We long for the waters to break and the news to be out. He is here. He is with us. He is with me. Streams of light and life are in my life and can be in yours. Simply trust – like Mary, like John. Friends, as we receive and trust the news of God this Christmas like Mary, John and the others did that first Christmas our thirst will be quenched – thirst for hope, future, love, meaning in our work, purpose to our life – quenched by the news – the good news of God.
Will you receive big news for you these weeks of Advent and this Christmas? It is big news and good news that God has not come to the wrong address or place or heart.
He has come to you and he knows your place, your ways, your weaknesses and your sin and stays at your place anyway – calling you out of the dark shed and into the light of the angels in his glorious gospel – good news that simply need to be heard and believed.
You count. Your life counts. God values you and has called you to bear Jesus where you are, like Mary and John.
There is no need to wait for someone or something else. He’s here.
Mary says, “I knew that he would change everything because he had already changed me”.
Has he? Is he? Will he?
Share your high and low for the week…
Read the text slowly and deliberately asking the Spirit to bring things into your focus as you hear God’s word. Note things down
What got your imagination going/stuck out to you?
If there was a biblical scholar in the room, what questions would you like to know the answer to in this text?
Mary said that when the angel messenger came to her door she thought that angel had come to the wrong house. She was just a girl – a girl from the back blocks – a place where nothing much ever happens and no one ever notices.
I asked, “Do you believe this of yourself, friend? Can good things come to you and from you? Are the angels at the right house this Advent? Is the Holy Spirit at the right heart?”
Share your response to Mary and this question….
John also asked an important question for every person. “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” I asked, “Are you still looking for someone or something else to make your life count?” Are you? If so (and we all do at times), what things do you look to in order to make yourself be OK? Share your thoughts…
What do you hear Jesus saying to you this Advent about looking to him to make your life count and be OK?
Advent and Christmas are news – good news. Like any news, it interrupts us and has to be either accepted and true and good and then readjusted to or it has to be rejected as inconsequential for our lives. I asked, “What are you doing with the Advent news?” Share your thoughts……
News is proclaimed and either trusted or rejected. How do you think people in your circle of friends and family respond to the news of God becoming a human being to take all human pain and suffering and sin on himself so that a new way of grace and love with God becomes a possibility for people? Why do you think this really is good news for some people, bad news for others or news of no consequence to others? When you get to the bottom of this question – let me know! Share your thoughts……
Mary says, “I knew that he would change everything because he had already changed me”. How is this true for you as a Christian and part of a local Christian community? Shasre your thoughts…..
Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.
We become the news readers/tellers. We simply tell the news and it up to the Spirit as to how any person responds. How does this work out in your own experience in the time when you have simply told the news of God’s love with another person? Share your stories……
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the news that has changed our lives and given us a story to live and tell. We thank you for your undeserved love given in a way we can really trust – Jesus – a real person just like us and giving his life for us. Help us to trust that you really have come to our house and heart and that you can bring much good to other from us. Help us tell the world of this good news and trust you for how people respond. Amen.