Sermon – December 18, 2003 – Waiting

Waiting… It’s so much fun, isn’t it? Think back over the course of the past month, the past week, or even the past day, and think about how much you have waited. Maybe it has been standing in line at the grocery store with a cart full of food that is waiting to be baked, chopped and sprinkled for Christmas dinner. Maybe it’s been waiting for a phone call from a loved one, or waiting in a traffic jam on Prospect, waiting for a paycheck, or waiting to check out while buying Christmas presents. Maybe it was waiting for good news, or waiting for a word of encouragement. Maybe it was waiting for pain to cease, or wounds to be healed.

This season of Advent, of waiting, seems very appropriate because we as human beings wait a lot. If you’re like me, you’re not always great at it. Sometimes it becomes so unbearable that we start questioning everything we believe in—even God. The process of life leaves us feeling helpless and, often times, makes us feel that there is nothing we can do about it. The last four years of my life, and especially this last year, have been one huge process of waiting. The summer after graduating from college I felt that I was called to serve God in ordained ministry. I decided I would follow my call and move to Dubuque IA to attend seminary. I was excited, scared, anxious, and unsure of what lay ahead.

The process of seminary, as any process in life, is a journey of waiting; waiting to see where God is leading you and waiting to see what will happen next. It is not only a process of waiting, but a process of trusting. Having to fully trust in God, and believing that God is with you every step of the way, is not always a piece of cake!

Does God really want me to do this? Is God really hearing me? Is God really choosing me—inadequate sinner that I am? What kind of ministry is God leading me to? What kind of congregation will I serve? Will it be the right match? Will my husband be happy? Will my family be happy? Will the congregation be happy? Will I be happy? Wait, wait, and wait. Yet, in the midst of waiting comes a calming voice: “Be still and know that I am God.” God is listening. God is faithful. Immanuel, God is with us. God is with us in the midst of our waiting, and if we just put our trust in who God is, and what God has done and is still doing, God will provide for us.

As we wait and prepare our hearts and lives for the celebration of our Savior’s birth, we hear the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. Dear Mary has had quite the shocker of a message delivered to her, announcing that she, plain ole’ Mary, will be bearing the Christ child—the one who has come to save the world! Can you even imagine what that must have been like for her? I mean, this is no ordinary message! Not only is she a young girl, but she knows that when she is pregnant, her honor, her family, her reputation, and her very life all are in jeopardy—for becoming pregnant outside of marriage is an abomination! She knows that she has to patiently wait and see what will happen. However, in this story of Luke, Mary didn’t freak out. Mary chose to serve God and to trust in what God was doing.

Mary wasn’t driven by reason to follow God’s plan for her. She was driven beyond reason. Her situation was unreasonable; her love was unreasonable, even her joy was unreasonable. There was no rational reason for her to be completely joyful in her circumstances. Mary faced danger on account of this blessing.

However, instead of turning her back on God, she goes to visit Elizabeth and proclaims the love and adoration for the Christ child whom she carries. Mary rejoices beyond reason. She praises God for who God is, and all the mighty things God is doing through the Messiah in whom she will give birth to. She is fully aware of the uncertainty of the world around her, yet she sings God’s praise. We know this couldn’t have been easy for her to do, as it is not easy for us. That is why Mary and all of us have this tremendous gift of Christ who loves us and forgives us even in the midst of our brokenness. Even when we do turn our backs to God—when we put our trust in the world, rather than in Christ, we are embraced with Christ’s saving love.

What better gift could you and I ever want? God gave of God’s self for our sake, so that we are transformed new and whole! It is because of this awesome and amazing gift that I think we need to ask ourselves some difficult questions this Christmas season, and for that matter, every day of the year: As we wait for things to happen in life, do we believe beyond the rational? Do we believe beyond what is reasonable? Do we love God beyond what is reasonable? Do we love others—even those we don’t know—even our enemies–beyond what is reasonable?

As we wait, how do we magnify God? The Greek word for “magnify” means “to make great.” This seems ridiculous, doesn’t it? How do we make God great? God is great entirely apart from us, or anything we do. Yet, we can make God great in our lives by giving God the largest part. When we marginalize God—when we put God on the back-burner, God is not great to us. God is great with or without us, but God’s greatness is revealed to the world when we put God first in our lives.

How do we proclaim Christ? Sometimes we don’t know the answer, and even if we do, it’s hard to do. However, because God gave us the wonderful gift of his Son, we can do it. We can go and tell it on the mountain, we can repeat the sounding joy, and together praise our God! All we have to do is trust that God is there loving us every step of the way—trust that the miracle of Jesus is alive and well and transforming the world. This Christmas season, as you wait for different things—as you become frustrated, impatient, afraid, discouraged, bewildered, remember to trust. This Christmas season, as you wait in anticipation, in joy, in excitement, in happiness, remember to trust. Trust that God loves you and that God forgives you. Put your trust in the Lord, and proclaim the love of Christ that was given to you through the amazing birth, death, and resurrection of this tiny Christ child.

Amen