Sermon – December 14, 2014 Third Sunday of Advent

Third Sunday of Advent
Pointers

It will probably come as no surprise to some of you that I am going to go out a little bit on the limb this evening/morning.  I am going to talk about computer programming, a subject in which I am utterly unversed. . . except that there is a practice in computer programming that is a useful tool for us tonight/this morning.  Though I know nothing of computer programming and programmers,  I benefit from their skill and expertise. When I turn on my computer and it asks me for my password, I type it in and voilà! it opens. I go to my Gmail account and ask to read my latest emails and they appear.  I check the weather and it gives me accurate conditions.   I tell my computer to delete the appeals from the wealthy person in Nigeria who wants to give me her millions of dollars if I would just provide for her my bank account number.   And the computer does so.

All of these things are following the directions of what computer programmers call the pointer. They point to the intended goal or purpose the user has in mind. These pointers are vital to the successful use of a computer, of course. They are especially useful in their singularity. They only point to one thing. So you can trust them. They, in the language of computer programming, are designed  to take us to the ultimate source and destination.  What a full and lovely phrase, “the ultimate source and destination.”

There is the role of John the Baptist. He is a pointer. He points to one thing. You can trust him.

John was the last in a long line of pointers to the coming of the Messiah, echoing the words of the pointer prophet Isaiah proclaimed prepare the way for one who would come with wisdom and power and healing in his hands, the one who would fulfill the promises of God.

The Psalmist today is a pointer.  Pointers, you see, locate their assigned object in the memory of a computer. The psalmist today calls the people to remembrance, to the acknowledgment of God’s constancy.

Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians today is a pointer. Showing how to be in waiting.  Rejoice and pray, give thanks, listen, hold fast to that which is good.

These pointers direct us as one singular purpose, to take us to the ultimate source and destination – Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the son of God.

Not all pointers, however, are reliable or serve a good purpose. Again in the language of the computer programmer, these are called wild pointers.  They will point the user to a destination one did not seek and which will usually accomplish nothing or worse. One guideline on these I read said this, “these wild pointers produce undefined behaviors which can be catastrophic… Because they do not point to a valid object.”

What are the wild pointers in your life? Who are the ones who will turn you or lead you toward a destination which is unfulfilling, costly to your spirit and your sense of self, or will take you far from the things of life and love and meaning? These are not idle ponderings. These wild pointers would have us use whatever power is ours or gifts we have been given to fulfill our own desires at the cost of others. These wild pointers will value objects and ends above what we know as the ultimate source and destination, and then reward us for our obedience to their way. These wild pointers too often turn  in on ourselves and away from our neighbors and away from God. And, in the language of the programmer, they can produce “undefined behaviors which can be catastrophic.”

There were wild pointers in Jesus time. You can round up the usual suspects; the Romans exercising their raw power over other people, the Herods collaborating for their own benefits at the expense of the people, the false prophets who signs sought their own ends, the limiting of wealth to the few and claiming that as a sign of divine favor.

All the more reason Jesus needed pointers. “Among you stands one whom you do not know,” declared John. In other words, this Messiah will come to you in ways that you have not looked for but which have been proclaimed of pointers, by the prophets of the past and the present. He could be standing behind you in my baptismal line, implies John. Jesus needed the pointers because the people have been led to believe the Messiah might arrive as the avenging warrior, or usurping king, or the rallying cry of revolutionary armies. These historic pointers reminded the people that the Messiah to come will be one of the servant heart, perfectly willing to be looked past by Kings and general’s so that he would be met and noticed and known among the hungry, the broken and the lost. Contented to be overlooked for a time by the powers of the day and be known by the one with a broken heart and the burden of shame and the life of fear. Come to children like the one who wrote this little poem

My mother’s name is worry.
In summer, my mother worries about water;
In winter, about coal briquettes.
And all year long she worries about rice.
In daytime, my mother worries about living;
At night, she worries for children;
And all day long she worries and worries.
My mother’s name is worry.
My father’s name is drunken frenzy.
And my name… My name is tear and sigh.

No, the pointers show the way to the one proclaimed by the Prophet, the one who hears the cries of those like this child,  the on who brings good news to the poor, binds up the brokenhearted, proclaims liberty to the captives, opens the prisons to those who were bound, who comforts all who mourn. The very one who claims this purpose as his own, the one in whom these words are fulfilled. The pointers are true. They direct us to the ultimate source and destination.

And now in our need, in our brokeness, in our hope he will come among us in unexpected ways.  Comes in his Word, in this meal, in the fellowship of faith, and now in Baby Jeremiah, who will be baptized/was baptized tomorrow/. His life now claimed by the Holy Spirit points to the one who has given all of himself for Jeremiah’s sake. Baby Jeremiah, though he doesn’t know it yet, is a pointer.  Through him, we are reminded of the grace of our own baptisms, the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness, a reminder that we have a place in God’s family and purpose.  Reminded that he is here among us providing these gifts.

The signs are true.  The Prophets are affirmed.  Christ has come as promised, he lives to bring hope, to bind wounds, to call forth.  And now in our time and in this place we have come to know this Good News and in doing so take our places as pointers.  Pointers to the one whose birth we soon celebrate, pointers to the Mother and the manger through which God has acted, pointers to the source of hope and love, to the Ultimate source and destination.

Thanks be to God,
Amen