Sunday, December 23, 2012

Everybody Loves an Underdog Micah 5:2-5a and Gospel: Luke 1:39-45 (46-56) This week we were given a big bag of used DVDs and videotapes. The first one that drew Toby’s attention was the DVD Sky High. As many of you know super heroes hold a very special place in our house. So when Toby saw those spandex clad cape wearing teenagers on the front of the DVD case he knew what movie he wanted to watch again and again. However as the movie developed he realized it wasn’t a typical superhero movie. The typical superhero flick is about mighty and powerful individuals that can be depended on to save the day. But as Sky High’s story evolved it was evident that the heroes of this story were going to be a crew of weaker, less significant students known as the sidekicks or “hero support’ if you wanted to be politically correct. You see this movie went from being about the extraordinary to being about the ordinary. It became a quintessential underdog story. And I was ok with that; after all everybody loves an underdog. Believe me, I’m a lifelong Cubs fan…We love to hear and see stories of people who seem to defy all the odds and do great things; people who somehow transcend normalcy or even mediocrity in inspiring ways. Friends today I would like to recommend a book full of underdogs. This book if you will is an anthology of underdog stories (hold up bible). As much as we love underdogs, the entire biblical witness reminds us that God loves them even more. Moses wasn’t even supposed to make it out of infancy let alone be able to lead his people to the Promised Land. David, a little shepherd boy from the small town of Bethlehem watches his brothers go off to war and then slays the giant and becomes the king through whose line the savior of the world is promised. And then there is Mary. This poor and insignificant young girl from an isolated farming community would become the mother of the messiah. How cool is that. You see the story that we hang the eternal state of our souls on is a true life underdog story. Mary goes from being poor and insignificant to being an object of ridicule and shame. As an unmarried pregnant woman she could’ve been stoned to death but God uses another underdog to protect her and provide an upbringing for his son. Joseph, whose royal ancestry meant absolutely nothing to his friends and neighbors, lived the quiet and average life of a tradesman in that small community of Nazareth. This seemingly ordinary man was called to be Mary’s husband and protector and Jesus’ foster father. His decision to stand by Mary despite her supposed indiscretion wouldn’t have won him any steps up the social ladder either. Of course the miracle that these two were going to participate in couldn’t happen in a small and insignificant place like Nazareth. So God had to call Mary and Joseph out of Nazareth; but not to a place of more import to the comparable hamlet of Bethlehem. God calls His chosen parents from the boonies to the sticks. Today’s prophecy from Micah reminds us that this small forgotten town will see the birth of yet another king. Of all the underdog stories we love, this should be our favorite one by far. Why does God reveal himself in this way? Why doesn’t he offer salvation through a savior that would be easily recognizable and who would demand loyalty and dependence. I think that a God who is known only through the eyes and values of a fallen world would prove Himself to be nothing but an idol. For the incarnation of God to be truly well… incarnational God with us, Immanuel, would have to be born into the common and ordinary. A look around reminds us that the common and ordinary are full of things like poverty and pain, shame and struggle. And it is those things that are redeemed by the birth we remember this week. Part of my Christmas season devotions always include a Christmas sermon of Martin Luther’s. The sermon includes this quote. She starts out on the journey with Joseph, her husband… Then when they came to Bethlehem, they were the most insignificant, the most despised people, as the evangelist indicates. They were obliged to make room for everybody, until they were shown into a stable and had to be satisfied to share with the animals a common hostel… Thus God indicates that he pays no attention at all to what the world is or has or can do, and on the other hand the world proves that it knows nothing at all of, and pays no attention to what God is, has, or does. You see brothers and sisters our best and brightest will never cure what truly ails us. No eloquent head of state will legislate true justice into existence, no mighty military leader will force true peace on a people, and even the world’s brightest doctors can hold death off for only so long. But justice, peace, and eternal life are exactly what God brings forth in this baby’s birth. The hymn that Mary sings today, that the church has always sung with her in its daily prayer is as clear a summation of God’s good news as we’ll find in all of scripture. Listen again to Mary’s song. 49for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” God exalts the lowly and calls the mighty to place themselves in His hands so they too may be exalted. And the world may see its messiah trough those who trust in His care. This is what it means to gather around the manger this Christmas season, to humble ourselves before this child in the hay, to join with Mary in singing her song. So we may be blessed and God may be known. I pray that as the birth of the Christchild approaches we can all find ourselves as underdogs in humble estate so we may fully know God’s presence and participate in His marvelous work.

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