The Fourth Sunday in Advent
22 December 2019
10:30 AM/Parish of North Sydney, St. John the Baptist Anglican Church
Book of Alternative Services, 271; Holy Eucharist
Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25
Are you tired, yet? Are you tired of waiting? Are you tired of standing in the pre-Christmas checkout counter? Are you growing impatient with judgmental, blaming people; and their unsmiling faces? Are you growing weary of the news headlines? Are you tired of trying to make it through yet another week on an honest working week’s paycheck? Are you tired of the visits to the doctor? Are you tired of the unknowing outcome of the diagnosis? Are you tired of worrying if the weather will cooperate for loved ones to come for their Christmas visit?
“Listen, aren’t you tired of the old ways yet?”
This is the question posed by Isaiah. “Listen…Isn’t it enough for you to be tiresome for people that you are also tiresome before God?”
Advent reminds us to wait. But, tell me again…just who are we waiting for? We might Find ourselves feeling this way after the past four weeks. After all, this week…how many young voices in automobiles and airplanes will be impatiently asking, “Are we there yet?”
Even the Psalmist is sounding a bit impatient with God today, if not more than a little demanding…“Wake up your power! Come to save us! Restore us, God! Make your face shine so that we can be saved!”
Again, hear the voices from the backseat ask…“Are we there yet?”
Yes. We are there. “We are there,” Paul assures us in the Letter to the Romans.
As Christ has set Paul apart to live out-loud God’s good news and share it with the world, the same is true for each of us as followers of Jesus. Paul teaches the believers of Rome, and believers from that day to this. “This good news is about his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! As a human, he was from the family of David. But the Holy Spirit proved that Jesus is the powerful Son of God, because he was raised from death. Jesus was kind to me and chose me to be an apostle, so that people of all nations would obey and have faith. You are some of those people chosen by Jesus Christ. This letter is to all of you in Rome. God loves you and has chosen you to be his very own people.”
Paul isn’t addressing the people with a concern about the ruler of the empire of the day. He is writing with concern that the people understand that with the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, “the resurrection of the dead” that the people had been waiting for, that Old Testament prophets and the Psalmist told of centuries before…the time has come.
The waiting is over. The death that has been the final weapon of the Roman empire has been broken. This power through Jesus Christ has come and the weaponry of the “tyrants and bullies the world over” has been defeated.
“Are we there yet?”
“Yes, we are there.” And, as Paul states, “We are now some of those people chosen by Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is our proof.”
This Holy Spirit is the same one that brought about the birth of the Saviour to Mary. “A young woman named Mary was engaged to Joseph from King David’s family. But before they were married, she learned that she was going to have a baby by God’s Holy Spirit.” Joseph her fiancé was kind enough to not want to make a public spectacle of her.
(It’s really quite sad, how people in that day must have gossiped behind the backs of Mary and Joseph; or right there in their faces, a version of the same bullying weapons that the Empire used against the people… the people then went right ahead and used against their very own.)
Considering all that was against him, Joseph certainly had a lot to think about. Imagine how restless his sleep must have been. No wonder he couldn’t sleep through the night without even dreaming about his dilemma. Yet, God used Joseph’s restless nights to get through to him. “An angel from the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, ‘Joseph, the baby that Mary will have is from the Holy Spirit. Go ahead and marry her. Then after her baby is born, name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”
God chose two of the most ordinary people imaginable to bring the Saviour into the world…so that ordinary people may know… “Emmanuel, God with us,” as we hear from Isaiah…“Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins,” writes Matthew.
Isaiah tells it like he sees it. Matthew tells it the way he sees it. Both speak of the God they believe in, the God who enters into humanity as one like them, having ordinary parents. Ordinary people…their people…
Isaiah, the Psalmist, Paul, Mary, Joseph, Matthew…they all point to the fact that the tiresome old ways are over. Yet, I wonder, do we live as if they are truly over? Are you ready to move on from the old ways, as Isaiah, says, to claim what is born to ordinary people like you and me…because…God still enters into humanity. God is still with us. God still offers new paths that bring surprising ways forward. God continues to fulfill his promises.
“Are we there yet?”
“Yes, we are there.” No matter what, may it be so. “We are there, because Jesus – Emanuel, God with us – still saves people from their sins.”
In the name of God: +Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.