Let us pray: Mighty and powerful God, your love for creation is everlasting. We confess that in your magnificent presence, we often shrink back, unsure and afraid of how we may be of value in your kingdom. Grant to us the strength of your Spirit, to allow our light of God to shine to others. Grant to us perseverance to live as beacons welcoming all into the presence of your love. O God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing and acceptable to you, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Earlier this week, a gentleman entered into a church in the local area saying that he was there to meet someone. The pastor, not aware of the person being met, invited the gentleman into his office. The gentleman began to lament, “Everyone around me is saying ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Merry Christmas,’ but I don’t find this to be a happy time at all.” “I hear you,” the pastor replied. The gentleman, looking shocked, said, “I mean everyone is decorating trees and yards and buying gifts, and there are people who are really struggling right now.” “I agree with you,” replied the pastor. Exasperated by the pastor’s non-anxious presence and his reluctance to “fix” the gentleman’s attitude, the gentleman got up and walked out of the church.
We are one day away from Christmas Eve: one day away from finishing the tasks we have to complete in order to celebrate Christmas Day, one day away from gathering tomorrow evening in order to welcome the Christ child. I imagine that some of us are quite excited for Christmas, and some of us, while we understand the reason for the excitement, there are still areas in our lives we carry as burdens. After all, we still live in a world in which terror exists and wars rage on. We live in a world where tragedy strikes entire communities and natural disasters occur. We live in a time when even the ordinary life events of aging, illness, and death cause us great anguish. Even still, the LORD our God is in our midst.
Yet, when we find ourselves in a place of loneliness, helplessness, and/or sadness, we want to “fix” it; we, like the gentleman, look to the experts to fix our problems: we look to the doctors to find a reason and produce a cure for whatever ails us; we look to bankers and financial advisers to be fortune tellers and to assure us that our investments are safe and are not going to take a huge hit; we look to pastors to say, “God will make everything okay.” And, while we search for the solution to our problem, a minor prophet—that is a prophet whose words take up less space than Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Jeremiah—a minor prophet is jumping up and down and trying desperately to draw our attention to the presence of God in our midst.
Micah, this minor prophet, does not direct us to the high priest or to the most successful king; he doesn’t even point to the largest city of Jerusalem. Instead, Micah directs our attention to this dot-on-a-roadmap town called Bethlehem. He does not point to a successful military leader, but he points to a leader who comes forth for God, who in chapter 4, is described as one who will “judge between many peoples and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall be their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore, but they [that is the people] shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.”
Micah’s vision is at once both idyllic and terrifying—terrifying because Micah does not employ the same resources that we have been accustomed to employing in order to find security. Micah finds security in God’s promise to send a leader who discerns, who mediates peace, and who brings rest and comfort. We are accustomed to manufacturing our peace, our rest, and our comfort through the possessions we own, through the insurance policies we take out, through our education, employment status, and/or our net worth. Yet, Micah reminds us that the peace, rest, and comfort we attempt to manufacture is like the grass that withers and the flower that fades, it is here today and gone tomorrow.
We, who call ourselves Christians, we who comprise the body of Christ that is the church, we hear Micah’s words, and we are drawn to 7:00pm tomorrow evening, when we will gather as a community of faith to welcome the One who is our security: Jesus. Jesus is our bread for hunger, our water for thirst, our life in the face of death. Jesus is our security.
This morning, Micah reminds us that God shows up in the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected ways. In our gospel text, God shows up in the visit between an aging woman who was thought to barren and a young maiden whom God chose to bear his Son. God’s activity is so palpable and present in this encounter that the child in the elder woman’s womb leaps for joy within her. God’s presence and activity shows up in an exercise group at Turner Fitness Center who chooses a local charity to support with donations. God’s presence and activity show up when pastors from the North Texas Annual Conference and surrounding areas travel to the tent cities at our southern border in order to proclaim the gospel to the youth who are being detained.
This morning, Micah calls us to go off the map in order to discover God’s presence and activity in our midst. Micah calls us to look at the unsuspecting person as a means of God’s grace in our lives. Micah calls us to turn from our inward selves and turn towards God. Each time I have the privilege to lead worship, I pray it is God who speaks through me; yet, I am already convinced that God speaks and acts, week in and week out, in our church office, in our church parlor, in our church nursery, in our choir loft, in our fellowship time in Truesdale Hall. God speaks and acts through every person who occupies a pew and God speaks and acts in the lives of those who will fill the empty pews.
On this fourth Sunday of Advent, this eve of Christmas Eve, are we ready to welcome our Savior? Are we ready to welcome the growing, stretching, and trusting that setting our agendas aside to follow God’s call on our life requires? As we gather for communion in a few minutes, I pray that through the common elements of bread and juice, we may experience the real presence of God in our midst, and in experiencing God we will welcome the Savior whom God has chosen out of the fullness of love. Amen.