Saint Peter the Apostle Parish in Naples, FL.
Micah 5, 1-4 + Psalm 80 + Hebrews 10, 5-10 + Luke 1, 39-45
Everything about Jesus Christ from who he was as the son of a carpenter born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, to what he did and what he said turned the ideas, the customs, and the beliefs of this world upside down. To enter into a relationship with him even today means that the same thing will happen. God has shown no interest in power, influence or great wealth. God has not as yet shown much interest in what is big or important by our judgments either. Great and powerful Rome, beautiful and wealthy Jerusalem, Kings, High Priests, Caesars and Tetrarchs were of no interest and no use to God. For all their glory, they are nothing today but ruins, piles of stone stared at and photographed from the windows of tour buses driving by. God is not there and never as.
Those who seek God are likely have more success finding him at the foot of a cross, in a homeless shelter or in a nursing home where a widow sits and waits for someone who does not come. Those who seek God might try looking among hungry frightened children homeless because of some senseless war, or among single mothers or fathers in line for food stamps after cleaning rooms at some fine resort hotel. We will soon tell the story of wise men who made the mistake of looking for God in fine Jerusalem at the powerful elegant court of King Herod. It is the first hint that something is changing, and God has a different plan.
God’s plan begins with a single mother and continues in a little town that amounts to nothing. God’s message is announced first to laborers in fields we call shepherds. They just as well be farm workers picking tomatoes or chopping cotton. God’s plan makes the first family homeless refugees fleeing the violence that kills children. God’s plan is finally put into action by a bunch of not very smart and not very dependable fishermen with a tax collector thrown in besides. God’s plan is announced in Galilee, and of all places, Samaria long before it gets to Jerusalem or Rome. God’s plan gathers in the sick, prostitutes, the blind, the lame, the mentally ill or “possessed” (as they called them in those days), the lepers, women, and even the dead. There is no exclusion, no privilege, or special people in God’s plan.
In the story of salvation, the beginning of which we celebrate on Friday, it starts small with a child entrusted to a young girl and courageous young man in a tiny little place that meant nothing to the big and powerful of this world. When that young girl began to realize what was happening, she ran to an old lady who had been barren to share that news, and together they rejoiced in their discovery of God’s odd and strange plan. The Messiah was entrusted to the most vulnerable of people in the most vulnerable of ways so that God’s glory, God’s love, and God’s salvation would not overwhelm us, but accompany us in our weakness, our smallness, and powerlessness in order to teach us the value of every human life.
For some it might seem like a crazy plan doomed to failure, but it is how God chose to come. Please note that God chose this plan. It was not forced upon God. Coming to grips with this plan suggests that going for the biggest package under the tree is a signal that the plan is either not understood nor not welcome. Born as a little one, Christ embraces all the little people of this world, and the littleness in us that sometimes haunts our days and nights. Vulnerable and helpless, God embraces and shares our helplessness and vulnerability. No one is too small, too poor, too helpless, or too insignificant to escape the presence and the company of God in Jesus Christ. No one who is misunderstood, betrayed by friends, or who suffers too much pain is outside the embrace of God.
This, my dear friends, is the message we share through the story we shall tell once again this week. Anticipating that great and holy day, we ought to say again and again the final words of the New Testament: Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.