The Fourth Sunday of Advent on board the MS Nieu Statendam
23 December 2018 on board the MS Nieu Statendam
Micah 5, 1-4 + Psalm 80 + Hebrews 10, 5-10 + Luke 1, 39-45
As we stand at the threshold of this year’s celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, we find ourselves being asked to reflect upon the unexpected ways in which God works. Here we are on a ship that a year ago was not even on the water. I knew it was planned, but on December 23, 2017 I never expected to be here. Yet here we are about to disembark, and many will head back home where it is entirely possible and even likely that the unexpected will again break into our lives. Because, that is how God works, unexpectedly. The three readings for this final Sunday of Advent all communicate some element of the unexpected. There had been a long tradition of sacrifice as the ultimate religious practice. In the second reading we find it replaced by something else. Who would then have ever thought that God would tire of sacrifices in a Temple. Then we discover that Jerusalem, long the place of honor and prestige, the city of power, is passed over and a little no-where place provides the savior. The major actors in this story are women, and it is a woman whose faith is the beginning of a new covenant. No one in that man’s world could ever have imagined such a thing. Then, story we are about to tell once again is a reminder that God approaches us through the seemingly insignificant in surprising ways.
The divine project that we are about to celebrate is revealed in actions as much as in words. Old Zachariah, one of the Old Testament’s priests is silenced. He and his wife Elizabeth are like Abraham and Sarah for their day, but their day has passed, because now Mary arrives, the mother of a new covenant. Her pregnancy has nothing to do with human plans, because God is doing something entirely new. This passing away of the old, and a recognition of something new and unimagined is a cause for joy. Unlike many these days who find change to be threatening and unwelcome, these people of faith believe that God can and does work in surprising and different ways never before dreamed of.
That God is not finished; not finished with creation, not finished with us, and not finished being revealed. Make your journey home in the morning a bit of an imitation of Mary’s journey to a loved one and family member. Carry with you the refreshment of these days. Celebrate the Joy of your reunion. Remember to look for and enjoy the surprise of little things and the little ways in which God can be found all around you, and especially in the little and least of gifts you may receive from those who, like God, love you very much. When you do remember, you will be among the Blessed who believe that what has been spoken to you by the Lord will be fulfilled.