Thursday, December 4, 2008

Incarnation as Confidence

Scripture Reading: Psalm 80:1-7
Scripture Lesson: Mark 13:21-27
Sermon: "Incarnation as Confidence"

Something Big! - An old pioneer traveled westward across the Great Plains until he came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the Grand Canyon. He gawked in amazement. The chasm was a mile down, eighteen miles across and more than a hundred miles long. He gasped, "Wow, something big musta happened here!"

An alien visitor to our world at Christmas, seeing all the lights, the trees, the decorations, the parades, the festivities, the charitable actions and gifts, and all the religious services, probably would say the same thing: "Wow, something big musta happened here!" And something big did happen. God put on flesh and came into our world as one of us on the first Christmas. That event changed all of history. But underneath the surface, I wonder, was it really that big of a deal? There is still war. There is still hatred, poverty, sickness. Children still go hungry and dictators still rule unjustly. The dishonest rich overlord the common stealing at will, while governments turn blind eyes. Is it all just hype?

Living up to the Hype? - In the movie, Galaxy Quest, Tim Allen plays a failed, washed up alcoholic actor who used to play the star role of a TV show very similar to Star Trek. One day to his surprise he and his supporting cast are brought on board a ship crewed by aliens. For years they studied the TV waves sent out to space, and thinking that the show was a documentary, they built an entire ship off the TV show. Believing him to be a great captain, they build him up and build him up. As one of his cast mates said, “It was like throwing gasoline on a fire.” All the hype went to his head, and he failed miserably. Except along the way something brilliant happened: The aliens kept quoting a line from the TV show as their salute: “Never give up! Never surrender!” As you may guess, along the way, Tim Allen’s character keeps at it, this TV cast saves the galaxy, and they live up to the hype. In some ways Advent is very much like that.

Birth of Jesus - It starts out big! The birth of Jesus. The Word made flesh. Jesus is born, and we celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

Salvation of the Lord - His name means salvation comes from the Lord for Jesus will save his people. For centuries, the Jewish people expected God to deliver them from their enemies. When Assyrians killed off half of the nation, they prayed for God to save them. When Babylon lay waste to Jerusalem and mothers were so hungry they ate their dead children, God’s people cried out for salvation. When a Greek king, Antiochus Ephiphanes killed Jews and mocked God by slaughtering a pig on the Temple altar to Zeus, the people of faith cried out for God’s swift vengeance. When Rome conquered all and took everything, people pleaded with the LORD for hope. Prophet after prophet sent up a lot of hype. God is coming. But was God really ever going to come? Perhaps today, we ask the same question: Is God ever going to come? Is God really going to make things right? to fix our hearts? to right wrong?

Waiting...waiting...waiting... - There is a woman who is buried under a 150-year-old live oak trees in the cemetery of an Episcopal church in rural Louisiana. In accordance with this woman's instructions, only one word is carved on the tombstone: "Waiting."

Jesus Comes...
Worth the Hype? - So Jesus came. A baby born in a manger 2000 years ago. He lived a simple life. He died, crucified between 2 thieves. Perhaps the hype was a bit much? But before we go there, I want to ask you a question:

Has Jesus come to your life? - So what do you do then? Well, you look again, (says Jesus). Past the crashing. Past the burning. Past the rubbish, ruin and rubble. Past the fallen stars rolling like pearls in whatever direction the floor of your life happens to be tilting. Past the smudged-over sun and the snuffed-out moon. Past the turbulence that is, at that very moment, shaking your airplane or your attitude ... shaking your faith or your life ... even shaking the earth on which you stand or the heavens toward which you gaze. Look past all that, Jesus said. Look through all that, Jesus said. And you will see, amidst the darkness, that the Son of Man is coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

Is he talking about the Second Coming? Of course he is. But what matters is if Jesus has come into your life? Have you heard the thunder peal? Have the foundations of your life been shaken? Has Jesus' arrival in your life made a big deal...or is it just some pretty token faith on a shelf? Again, I ask you, has the Christ Child been born anew in your heart?

Incarnation as Confidence
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
- Ancient Communion Liturgy

- All that we hold dear in faith as Christians is summed up in this simple credo inserted into the most ancient of liturgies. The Christ child, the Messiah, came and lived among us. He died that we might live. In his death, God is putting to death our sinful selves. On that Cross, when we give ourselves up to Christ, on that cross our sin and shame and guilt dies. Instead of our struggling and dying inwardly everyday, Jesus died once and for all. How do we know this: Christ is risen. It’s one thing to say you’re the Word made flesh, God incarnate, the God-Man, but it’s something else to prove it. For in Christ’s resurrection is our hope that while we too are crucified with Christ, Christ resurrection gives us life, that Christ lives in us. That we have a new start, a new life, a life free to truly do what we want...not to be stuck in a rut of work-eat-sleep. Or being captured by the family behaviors of not talking to each other because “our family doesn’t forgive.” Or forsaking what we really believe because it’s not cool or not empirical or sometimes not even practical.

I ask you again! Has Jesus come into your life? Is the Christ Child born in your heart? If not, it’s something to seriously consider because it's a matter of true life! Christ will come again...Are you going to be ready? Many missed out the first time...

There is a wonderfully true story of Marie Krassman. Marie Krassman was a Polish Jew who, during WWII, was rounded up along with thousands of others, and put to work on the German war machine, in forced labor. She was sent to the Volkswagen factory, that at that time was making Tiger Tanks. She was pregnant and soon gave birth to her baby boy. The child was immediately taken away and sent to the Volkswagen Children’s Home. She never knew what happened to him; she was never allowed to visit. We now know that these babies were fed sour milk and ravaged with lice.

One night in desperation she snuck out of the camp and hiked the eight miles to the children’s home. If she were caught, it would have meant instant death. She found her child and she hardly recognized him. He was skin and bones. She kidnapped her own child and literally walked away from the home and never came back and, remarkably she was never caught. Of the 300 children who entered the Volkswagen Children’s Home, this one child survived. Over the years, the child Vladimir Kreassman and his mother Marie have been interviewed many times to tell their incredible story.

That was a rescue mission. It was a salvation mission. God is coming on a salvation mission and the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the power in the heavens will be shaken You will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Because NOTHING, I mean NOTHING is going to stand between God and his children. And we shall survive. Not just one child but all God’s children. Jesus is coming back!

Incarnation as Confidence
Jesus is coming. - You do believe it don’t you? You have experienced him shaking up your world haven’t you? Don’t let the worries and fears and temptations of this world tear you down. Don't let the stresses and the sins entangle. The doubt and the despair may assail us, but we can't give up! We can't give up when we are so close! Jesus is coming! Brothers and Sisters, Jesus IS coming. Stay the course. Have faith.
Never Give Up! Never Surrender!


RickinVa said...

That Mark was seriously good.

cindy baker :) said...

mark, i absolutely loved this! i am so glad i know your voice because i can hear you in my head giving this sermon! you hit it out of the park!! thanks for always being a source of inspiration!! love ya!! cindy :)