Sermon Sunday December 24, 2023 Fourth Sunday of Advent
Lessons: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Once upon a time, there was an ant who was fed up with
being an ant. She didn’t enjoy it at all: the rules seemed
overly strict, she was tired of having to wait in really long
lines, and she hated having to do just exactly what everyone
else was doing. She wanted to be like the ladybugs and the
beetles, and live a free and unworried life.
The ant tried hard to make her dream a reality, and then
finally, one windy day, she grabbed onto a big leaf that came
flying past, and up they both went, higher and higher.
When she was so high up that she could no longer make out
the insects on the ground, she couldn’t believe what came
into view. Raised up from out of the surrounding foliage was
the magnificent anthill, which was visible from afar.
There was no sign of any beetle or ladybug nests; nor
anything else made by other insects. There was only the
anthill. And the ant realized that it had been precisely those rules,
the spirit of self-sacrifice, the obedience and effort of all the
ants working together which had enabled them to build
something so much greater than any other insect could. And
finally, she felt very proud to be an ant.
While this story is ostensibly about being obedient in the
every day drudgery of life for this poor ant, and following
all the rules, it seems that the great point of this whole story
is really about love. Love is the theme that resounds to us
this Fourth Sunday of Advent in our readings, as we
fervently and perhaps feverishly await the commemoration
of the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
What does it mean to be obedient? It means to submit, to
submit to something or someone else. It’s not a meaning that
I for one find at all attractive. In fact, I find the idea rather
repulsive and demeaning, that I, a free and independent
person, should have to submit my very being to another, or
another something. Yet that is what St. Paul is talking about in our Lesson from the Letter to the Romans today. We are
asked to submit to God, to be obedient to God.
Upon further reflection, it seems that my attitude of not
wanting to submit to anyone else, to something else, to God,
is what got us humans into the mess that tomorrow’s (or
tonight’s) celebration is responding to. It is the necessity of
God’s only Son being Incarnated into the world, because we
decided in time immemorial that we were/are right, that we
knew/know better than God, that we surely didn’t/don’t have
to listen to any of those silly rules that God asked us to obey.
We all know how that turned out, right?
And God gave us the Law, the Torah, God’s Teaching
through Moses. And then there were what must have seemed
an infinite number of rules, of laws to follow—all 613 of
them. But Jesus came along and said that there are two great
laws, the most important is to “Love the LORD your God
with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your
soul.” And the other is like it, “to love your neighbor as
yourself”, for upon these two hang the entire law! In other
words, if we love, if we truly love, we are obeying God!
Hmmm…so obeying God is love, or rather loving is obeying
God. Maybe that is something that a free and independent
individual needs to remember!
In today’s Gospel from Luke, we have the scene where the
angel Gabriel comes to Mary to tell her that, yes, she is the
one that God would have bear Jesus through the grace of the
Holy Spirit. Whoa, wait a minute! Mary didn’t have to say
yes to God through the angel Gabriel. Have you ever played
that game in your mind about what would have happened if
Mary had said, “You’re Crazy! Uhn, Uhhn.” And gone on
her merry (pun intended) way.
Imagine being in those circumstances that Mary was in—very young, engaged to be
married, poor and of no great consequence in the eyes of
most of the world. Who could blame her for saying no?
And make no bones about it. Mary was not some meek and
mild little girl! Mary questioned Gabriel. “Are you nuts
angel?” And even though Gabriel said to her, “be not
afraid,” Mary certainly didn’t seem afraid, bewildered
perhaps, as she feistily talked to Gabriel. No, Mary had all
her wits about her. She was no pushover! Mary was
obedient, not because she was coerced or forced to submit,
or had no free will. She said, “Okay, I’m not sure how all of this is going to happen, or even what I have gotten myself
into, but, I’ll do it because I love God. I will be God’s
willing instrument in this so the world can also know God’s
love, in the flesh, as I have.” And that is what she did.
And finally, we have the obedience of Jesus to not only
carry out God’s plan, but that occurred because of His great
love of His Father and of His great love for us. Jesus in His
birth became God’s great apocalypse, or God’s great
revelation—that is God’s great plan or vision for us as
human beings. Jesus became one of us to reveal God’s great
love for us in a concrete way that we could understand, even
if we didn’t get it right away, and it seems that we are still
struggling to understand. We also see this obedience, this
love, in the promise that Jesus will come again to fulfill, to
complete God’s Kingdom in the new creation!
And so, perhaps we like the ant who didn’t want to follow
the rules can look at obedience to God’s vision for us in a
way that helps our Christmas celebrations to shine with
God’s love, with the love of Jesus.
If we love God and love our neighbors, if we can welcome
the stranger, if we can serve our brothers and sisters, if we
can honor the weak, if we can weep and rejoice together, if we can sit at the same table together, our obedience is love
We can see the bigger picture like the ant looking at the
beauty and majesty of her anthill from afar. We can see the
beauty and majesty of our obedience as a community, that
is, our love for God and our neighbors. And what better gift
can we give and receive this Christmas? Amen.