Sunday, December 06, 2009

We Are Carrying Love: Advent Reflections, Part 2

The second of four excerpts from my Advent sermon. Pray for the people who have to endure the whole thing in one sitting.

The Orthodox Church refers to Mary, mother of Jesus, as Theotokos, "God-bearer," which is a pretty handy, efficient way of characterizing Mary’s unique ministry. She was, as the story tells us, impregnated with God. Jesus gestated in her womb, where his heart started beating and his spinal cord took shape and his limbs started flexing their fledgling muscles. Somewhere along the way, undoubtedly, Jesus kicked Mary, and she felt it not as an affront or a judgment—imagine being kicked by God?!?—but as good news: this child inside her was alive and kicking, and because of a conversation she had months previous she knew that this was God inside her, eager to get out and face the world he created, eager to be not only the Lord of Hosts but also Emmanuel, God with us.

Let’s take up the story from Luke 1.
Since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

We begin not with Mary but with Luke himself, who in this preamble indicates why he’s writing what he’s writing. What follows is an “orderly account,” thoroughly investigated, as a means of grounding the beliefs of Theophilus. His name means “Lover of God,” which may be a given name or may be a pseudonym Luke takes up for this book and takes up again in his second historical volume, the book of Acts. But the point is that what follows is orderly, carefully investigated, and intended to anchor the beliefs of the Christian church in a concrete history. These things, Luke is telling Theophilus and really all of us, really happened.

I heard a pastor once suggest that every time we see a manger scene we remind ourselves, “That really happened.” I thought that was cool, and so now every time I see one, that’s what I do. And if I happen to forget, a friend of mine at work reminds me. This is part of our ministry to one another, part of why Luke took it upon himself to help Theophilus to be certain of his faith. We are carrying love, and the love we carry is meant for one another.

So when you’re struggling to believe either the truth of what we celebrate every Sunday or struggling to trust that you’ll be able to make your mortgage next month, or struggling to see a future with your spouse or struggling to imagine a meaningful life without a spouse—keep in mind that there is someone near you who is carrying love for you. And not even only their own love for you; there are people near you who are carrying the love of God in trust for you. It’s right and proper for us to draw deeply from this love when we need it, just as it’s right and proper for us, as God-bearers of a kind, to be prepared to dispense this kind of love when we find a need for it: through acts of kindness, through words of encouragement, through any number of ways.

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