2 Sam 7.1-16, Ps 89.12-29, Rom 16.25-7, Luke 1.26-38
Rev'd Daniel Irvine
A minister decided that a visual demonstration would add emphasis to his Sunday sermon. Four worms were placed into four separate jars:
The first worm was put into a container of alcohol
The second worm was put into a container of cigarette smoke.
The third worm was put into a container of chocolate syrup.
The fourth worm was put into a container of good clean soil.
At the conclusion of the sermon, the Minister reported the following results:
The first worm in alcohol - Dead.
The second worm in cigarette smoke - Dead.
Third worm in chocolate syrup - Dead.
Fourth worm in good clean soil - Alive.
So the Minister asked the congregation - What can you learn from this demonstration?
A little old woman in the back quickly raised her hand and said, "As long as you drink, smoke or eat chocolate, you won't have worms!"
....Ok, so it might not be the best joke that I’ve ever found but the point I hope to build on from it is that the unexpected turns of events can very easily scupper the best laid plans.
Take the plans of King David in our first reading today. By this time he had successfully completed his meteoric rise from shepherd boy to King of Israel. He had established a capital, secured the borders and been acclaimed in his position by all the people of Israel.
Next on his list was to build a Temple for the Lord so that, just as Israel looked to the great empires surrounding them in first asking the prophet Samuel to choose a king for them, Israel might also have a house, near the royal courts, for God to dwell in, just like other nations did.
A house ...or perhaps a box? As other ruling dynasties in the ancient world used their control over their nation’s priesthood to help secure their rule and their continuing succession after all the freedom of God was one of the defining aspects of the developing Hebrew religion since the time of Moses.
But whatever the reasons for his plans, David would have no doubt been shocked to learn that not only was he going to be unable to build the Temple that God, in fact was going to make an everlasting house from his line.
He must have thought that quite a blessing but I wonder if he appreciated it as fully as we now can as we look back and realise that the promise made by God had nothing to do with King Solomon or any of the successors to the throne in Jerusalem.
God’s promise was not connected with any earthly concepts of rule or power, but with his great salvific plan for all creation – the mystery spoken of by Paul – God’s ongoing quest to reconcile all humanity with the divine through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
And this realisation leads us to another great unexpected moment, one that is related in our Gospel reading today. That God would enact that plan through the most unlikely of sources, in a place and a family, though still connected with that royal ancestor, that was as far removed from royal power and palaces as could be possible.
That through a poor, insignificant young woman, probably not much more than a girl really, who was betrothed to a tradesman in a small rural village, God would enter this world with the sole purpose of saving us, of loving us.
The differences between David and Mary’s attitude to the work and mission of God were vast.
David thought that he would do great works for God, that he would build God’s Temple and that although it was for God’s glory, that it would have been his work.
Mary, on the other hand, had no great visions of grandeur, or of self importance, but what she did have was a willingness to listen to God and a desire to let God work God’s plans in and through and for her and all of humanity.
There are many issues that confront us in this world and even in our church, I have preached about them often, and with such a daunting task in front of us it can easily seem like there is so much we each have to do.
But in all our thinking and our motivations, we do need to be guarded against an attitude like that of David, an attitude that says to ourselves that we are going to do things for God, that our powers, our good intentions, our force of will, is going to somehow give something to God as if all of creation isn’t already the Lord’s, and all that is within it.
Instead we need to try and be more like Mary, listening for God, waiting for God, praying that God might guide and direct us into our roles for God’s plans, whether that role might seem big or small, because God is not limited to our understanding of bigness or smallness.
Listening, waiting, praying, and then, when we are asked, when the opportunity arises, when a role is revealed, then just like Mary, saying “Yes”.
Because in the end we are each called to participate fully in the building of God’s kingdom and the fulfilling of God’s mission, wherever and whatever that part might require, but we cannot build it alone, we cannot use our own powers to do it for God, as David planned to do.
So then let us pray.
Heavenly Father, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is the incarnation of your love for us, may we contemplate on your great plan for salvation, for freedom and release for all creation from everything that seeks to bind and control us, that seeks to separate us from you.
And as we contemplate on that plan, may we become attuned to the role that you are calling us to fulfil within that great plan, here in Milang/Strathalbyn, or wherever we might be.
Help us to realise that no matter where we are or what stage of our lives’ journey we are at there are tasks you are calling us to fulfil – help us to value to small parts we might play in your great work and to always rely on your strength and support.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for all eternity. Amen.