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Sunday Sermon December 18, 2022 Fourth
Sunday of Advent
Lessons: Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalm: 80:1-7, 16-18
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew: 1:18-25
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Spirit Amen.
This is a prayer from Methodist Bishop Wil Willimon
that strikes a real chord for today’s lessons:
“Lord, you came among us, not in a way we expected,
but as a baby. We had great difficulty seeing you in so
small a form, so vulnerable an incarnation.
Lord, you came to us when we leas expected you,
were born among a poor family, to an oppressed and
victimized people, in an out-of-the-way part of the

Lord, you came to us when we least expected. We
thought that all hope for humanity was lost, or that it was up to humanity to save ourselves or we would not
be saved, or that some god or other would swoop
down from the heavens and deliver us. Then you
came to us in the dark of night, born to Mary and
Joseph; you came to us as a baby.
Lord, forgive us when we don’t see you because we
look in the wrong places, or because you give us hope
for your advent, or because we expect you to come in
power, majesty, and glory rather than in humility,
poverty, and meekness.

Lord, help us to experience your birth among us. God
with us. God with us, not on our terms, but on your
terms, as a baby. Jesus, a human who took upon
himself our humanity that we might be brought back
to God. Amen.”

As I stood looking down at the wailing newborn
infant, I couldn’t help but think, “God surely knew
what God was doing to make these two the parents
rather than myself!” I was standing next to the young

couple who had just brought home the baby boy born
on December 25 th in the late 1980’s. What did any of
us know about taking care of a newborn? So, the three
of us stood looking at each other. Finally, someone
said “Now what do we do?”

We all can relate to this story in one way or another,
either as parents, or a doting aunt or uncle, or even a
friend of the family of a newborn, first child. Now
what do we do? So many things are unexpected. Can
we even begin to imagine what was going through
Joseph’s head as the angel of the Lord gave him
instructions about the child being God’s? The child
that he was to help guide through his life on earth?
The Gospel of Matthew begins with a long genealogy
of Jesus. Even though Matthew lets us know right
away that Joseph is not Jesus’ biological father,
Matthew tells us that he was accepted into Joseph’s
family and that meant that he was of Joseph’s
ancestral line. So we get mention of Abraham, David,

Hezekiah, and Josiah, all O. T. people who figured
prominently in God’s loving plans for the world. We
also have Tamar, Ruth, the wife of Uriah, and Mary.
None of these women were exactly considered
paragons of Jewish society. In fact they were outside
of the social norms of respectability: Tamar for
begetting a child from her father-in-law Judah, Ruth
for being a foreigner, the wife of Uriah whose
husband King David had tricked into being killed, and
Mary, conceiving a child outside of wedlock. All
these women in the lineage of Jesus were so
unexpected. So unexpected in God’s loving plans for
the world.

We also have three different sets of 14 generation in
Jesus’ genealogy. Remember that seven in the Bible is
the perfect number, so 14 is two times more or doubly
perfect! It tells us that Jesus’ coming occurs at just the
right moment!

And then we have Joseph and Mary and todays
Gospel lesson right after the genealogy. We imagine
that they weren’t quite so sure about the opportune or
right moment! Joseph was trying to follow Jewish law
when he made the decision to divorce Mary quietly.
The child wasn’t his, but he didn’t want Mary hurt
either. What a guy, right? But then the angel blows
him out of the water! It’s OK Joseph. Just get on with
your life with Mary and the baby. Oh, and by the way,
the child is God’s, and you will call him Emmanuel,
God with us. What do we do now? This is so
unexpected. But he moved forward in faith.
Under the best of circumstances children disrupt our
lives, as demonstrated by the three of us standing
around the crib not knowing what to do. A child
changes our lives forever. They disrupt our sleep, they
demand to be fed before us, they demand to have their
diapers changed. They scream, they cry, they wave
their fists at us. They spit up on us, they throw food at us, they make us go gaga and goo goo. They make
fools of us, they make us do things we never thought
that we would do. They make us laugh, and cry, and
love. They change our lives forever, in so many
unexpected ways.

And they are so small, and weak, and vulnerable, yet
they have a hold on our lives for the rest of our days,
and they never let go. Imagine Joseph and Mary living
through all this, having their lives turned upside
down. But it wasn’t just Mary’s and Joseph’s lives
that were turned upside down by their tiny little child.
The whole world was turned upside down by this
small, vulnerable, weak child! This was so

Children strip us of all our false pretenses, our we-
know-it-all attitude, and our delusions all in their
weakness and vulnerability. And isn’t that what the
Christ child does to us as well? But, really, why did
God come to us as a child and not in a cloud of blazing glory the first time he came into the world?
Could it be, as Biship Willimon says, “starting at the
beginning, at the source, he confronts our very
deepest and darkest fears, re-creating our humanity
from the womb onward.” And that would be reason
enough to come as a child that is so unexpected and so
comforting. Jesus knows and understands us, really
and truly.

But there is a niggling doubt that isn’t quite as
comforting as those true and wise words. Could it be
that the whole point is to have our lives upended, to
live in the vulnerability of the child, to live in the
unexpected? Bishop Willimon goes on to say,
“Nothing is so helpless, so dependent, so fragile, so
frail as a baby. I know of no other religion so bold as
to admit to the possibility of its God appearing in so
vulnerable a form. How scandalously condescending
is the love of this God who deems to meet us first as a
baby. How threatening is this God to my human desire for an aloof, platonic deity who lives in the
realms of the abstract, a self-contained ideal rather
than in the stable out back, who is wrapped in
swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger.” We can
add the sheer audacity of a God that loves us so much
that he sent us His only Son.

This vulnerable child brings to mind the suffering
servant living among God’s poor. This child’s
vulnerability demands that we respond to him. A wise
person living on the fringes of society said of the baby
that he “is poor, little, and outside like us.”

So, questions we can contemplate for this week before
Christmas demand that we answer them in God’s love
for us. How has or can this child disrupt our lives out
of the complacency we often find ourselves in? How
can God’s love to us through this child have us look at
our own vulnerability, allowing us to be more human?
How can God’s love to us through this child allow us
to see anew the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized around us, not only in them, but in ourselves, and
bring them and us together into this opportune time of
the birth of the baby, so unexpected, who came to
announce God’s love, God’s Kingdom among us?
Now what do we do, like Joseph and Mary, in this
opportune time, in this right moment? Amen.