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The Blessing of Home
Series: Come Home For Christmas
Leader: Rev. David Thomas
Scripture: Micah 5:2-5a Luke 1:39-56
Date: Dec 19th, 2021
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“Why has this happened to me?”  How could such a thing be?  These are the questions I want us to sit with this morning.  Do you remember the wonder of Christmas?  Do you remember the longing?  Do you remember the longing for a gift that you felt would change your life even?  The anticipation, the waking up early. The excitement.

I want us to sit this morning and ponder in our hearts the wonder of a gift that not only changes our lives but continues to change them in ways beyond our imagining.  The wonder.  We get away from that a little bit and it’s a shame that we do.  What news might we hear, what truth might inhabit us, that would cause us to burst into song?  Maybe even do a little dance or go “Whooooo!” or jump?  Hug a stranger even.  I remember when Manchester United won the European Cup for the first time in my lifetime I was out.  It was an amazing comeback win (miraculous even) and when the final whistle sounded I hugged the guy standing beside me.  I remember watching a parade once when I was around 6 or 7 and there was a news camera.  My cousin and I started dancing around and chanting “We’re going to be – on tv!” (and I never did see us on tv) because to be on tv meant something.  To be on tv for a Gen X kid would be the equivalent of large numbers of “likes” or “followers” now.  It means something right?  It means you’re somebody. We all want to be somebody.  A song was out not many years ago by an artist called Banners, it goes “I don’t wanna die or fade away/I just wanna be someone/I just wanna be someone/Dive and disappear without a trace/I just wanna be someone/Well doesn’t everyone?”  If artists (singers/painters/poets/writers/preachers) aren’t speaking the truth, then it’s not going to mean very much is it?  I just want to be someone.  We can feel diminished, can’t we?  If we don’t at the moment know that millions around us do.  Nowhere men and women, living in a nowhere land, making nowhere plans for nobody.  These words resonate for a reason.  We can feel diminished.  Minor even.

They call Micah a minor prophet if you can believe that.  Not in the Hebrew tradition thankfully, where they divide prophets into former and latter.  In the Christian tradition, we divide the prophets into major and minor.  This is solely based on the length of their writings but it still must sting.  Why should Isaiah get all the glory?  Micah prophesied at the same time as period as a large part of the book of Isaiah deals with.  The northern kingdom has fallen (Israel or Ephraim).  Micah tells of coming destruction and we hear of this at the beginning of chapter 5 – “Now you are walled around with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod, they strike the ruler of Israel on the cheek.”  What do those words mean to you this morning?  What do you think they might mean to those around us this morning literally or figuratively? 

And then this – “But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah…”  A nowhere town.  A town not even listed among the towns of Judah when the towns are listed in Joshua 15.  And what’s this Ephrathah mean?  No one knows for sure.  It’s a name associated with a clan of Caleb (speaking of Joshua).  It might mean the area in which Bethlehem is located.  It might be an adjacent town that became part of Bethlehem.  It means fruitful while at the same time meaning barren or desolate.  Listen to the promise about this little town  “… from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.  And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now, he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.”

“Why has this happened to me?”  Fast-forward a few hundred years and we hear about two women.  Mary.  Nothing outwardly special about her.  A common enough name (being named David I feel safe to say this).   From a fairly nowhere town, Nazareth.  Can anything good come from there?  Elizabeth.  We don’t even know where she’s from.  Somewhere in the hill country.  They are neither rich nor famous.  In the eyes of the world, they’re nowhere people. 

And yet, they are shouting and bursting into song.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some dancing or leaping going on.  John’s leaping for joy after all and he hasn’t even been born yet.  This is what the Holy Spirit does. This is what the Holy Spirit inspires.  Mary goes with haste to visit Elizabeth and Zechariah.  She cannot wait to tell her the news.  They greet one another (and if there is one thing you remember about me, please let it be the importance of the good greeting).  There is a double greeting.  “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry…”  A double greeting – a triple greeting if you include John.  A blessing.  “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”  Maybe they’re holding onto each other’s hands at this point as we do when we are overjoyed.  “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

We all want to be someone.  We all want to be blessed.  “Be blessed” we tell people.  What does this mean?  In the new year God willing we’re going to look at what Jesus said about being blessed when we go through the Beatitudes over 8 weeks.  Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are the meek…  What does it mean to be blessed?  To be in a good place.  To possess what is necessary for a joyful life, as someone has put it.  To be welcomed into the presence of God through the one they call Emmanuel, which being interpreted is “God With Us.”  This is our invitation.  It’s an invitation to blessedness.  Your blessedness, should you choose to accept it, is in this baby that has been promised to Mary. 

May we accept it in wonder and ask “Why has this happened to me, that the Lord should come to me?”  That the creator and sustainer of the universe would notice me.  That the creator and sustainer of the universe would remember me.  Mary is blessed because she heard a promise, and she believes that promise.  “Here am I, the servant of the Lord,” she told Gabriel, “Let it be with me according to your word.”  Our invitation this 19th day of December 2021 is to respond with the same faith.  Elizabeth had put it like this – “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me…”

This is a question for all the followers of Christ.  All the Christ people.  What has the Lord done for you?  He has taken away my shame.  He has forgiven me.  He has made me a new person.  He is making me a new person.  He has given me a firm foundation.  He has given me a peace that I could not find anywhere else.  He has put a love in my heart for all that he has made which did not come from within me.  He has set my feet on a solid place.  He has given me a song.  The Lord is my strength and my song.  He has taken away my fear. 

He has turned the world upside down, and in so believing we come to know that he’s actually turned the world right-side up.  The world is about to turn, goes the song.  God has not finished any of those things in me.  God has not finished God’s redemptive work in the world (and if you’re wondering what that means we’ll get to it in a few moments), but Mary sings of it as if it has already happened.  To claim God’s promises is to live in them like they have happened already, are happening now, and will happen in their fullness one day.  Someone has said that Mary represents the proto-type for the church here.  She is indwelt by God.  In other words, the living Word is living within her.  This is God’s part.  She declares herself to be “…a servant, in her entire person, body and soul, one who knows no law of her own, but only conformity to the word of God.”  May God make us all like that.

Mary begins to sing.  What has the Lord done for you?  Not only for you and me but for all of God’s creation!  We might have been hearing this song for decades and I pray God gives us the heart to hear it in new ways this day.  Elizabeth honours Mary and in turn, Mary deflects the honour to God and what God is doing.  I’m going to read a translation of Mary’s song that follows the word order in the original.  The syntax is a little jarring but I think jarring is good here.  Listen to how Mary tells the story of what God does:

Magnifies my soul the Lord

And rejoices my spirit in God my savior, 

Because he looked carefully at the lowliness of his servant-girl.

For behold, from now on, will bless me all generations,

Because did for me magnificent things The Mighty One.

And holy (is) his name,

And his mercy (is) to generations and generations

For those who fear him Did a strong thing with his arm,

Scattered the proud in the ideas of their hearts,

Unseated the mighty from their thrones,

And lifted the lowly

The poor (he) filled with good things,

And the rich (he) sent away empty.

Helped Israel his servant-boy,

In order to remember his mercy,

Just as (he) said to our ancestors,

To Abraham and his seed forever This, dear friends, is the blessing of home.  Blessed is she and he who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her or him by the Lord.  God grant that we might all count ourselves among that number. 

The blessing of home does not stop with us, of course.  That promise to Abraham of which Mary sang can be summed up in the phrase “blessed to be a blessing.”  “I will surely bless you… and through your offspring, all nations of the earth will be blessed because you have obeyed my voice.” (Gen 22:17-18)  We might feel inadequate for such a task.  “Can anything beautiful and worthy come from me?” we might ask.  With God nothing is impossible.  Out of the most seemingly insignificant (at least in the world’s eyes), people and places can come beauty and truth.  How will we be called to bless others in the coming days/weeks/months?  We start here don’t we?  Peace be with you.  It might be love that is shown in a kind word.  It might be an act of grace and reconciliation, a reaching out to someone where reaching out is needed.  It might be in the singing of a joyful song.  It might be a word of wisdom that we’re able to give at just the time it is needed most.  Someone has put it like this – “What’s within you that makes the children of God leap for joy upon hearing your voice? What are you giving birth to even now as you make your way in the world today?”  What is God creating in us to make us conduits of the blessing of home that we know in the love of God, this Christmas, and in the days to come?  Let us continue to ask this question as we continue to ask in thankful wonder – “Why has this happened to me?”  Blessings to you and yours this Christmas and always, and may God continue to work in each of us to will and to work for his good purpose.