Shares Themes with the Story of the Coming of John
One of the greatest surprises in the story of God’s coming into our midst is that God did not chose a queen or a princess to be the mother of God’s Son.
In fact, God chose a very unlikely person.
Instead of choosing royalty from a high and mighty family, God chose a lowly maid.
In a period of history that emphasized the importance of age, God chose a young virgin.
In an empire where wealth was power, God chose a poor servant, betrothed to a Jewish carpenter.
In a patriarchal society where men controlled everything, God comes to Mary.
So it was in a small, unimportant town named Nazareth, in an insignificant providence of the Roman Empire that God sent an angel.
The angel Gabriel comes to Joseph says, “Look the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel, which means God with us.”
He will be the Son of God.
His reign will occupy the throne forever.
That Jesus is the Son of God and ruler of all things is both a huge theological claim and a political claim.
If these claims are true, the world will be changed dramatically.
Joseph probably does not read the theological and political significance, but focuses on the first claim and a more immediate problem.
“I know how this baby thing works and it’s really quite impossible that my fiancée is pregnant.”
God’s incredibly precarious plan now rests completely on the shoulders of this young maiden and Joseph.
God’s plan comes together because of the willingness of an ordinary person to obey God’s claim on her life.
The point of the whole birth story is not to provide us with purely historical facts, but to help us to understand this incredible intersection of heaven and earth that is about to happen.
God comes to ordinary people with an incredible plan to bring God’s reign in heaven on earth.
As we look at the many ways God has come to people in the past, we can see a pattern in their response.
“Here I am Lord, let it be according to your will.”
There is an incredible relinquishing of control that takes place when we faithfully say these words.
I am convinced that giving up control to God is one of the most important keys to deepening our relationship with God and following God’s will and purpose for our lives.
In my own experience, I felt a call for quite some time to go into the ministry.
While I was waiting for God to give me a sure sign, God was waiting for me to have faith.
25 Years ago I went to a Cursillo Weekend, which is a three day course on Christianity.
At the end of those three days I uttered those words, “Here I Am Lord. Not my will but your will be done. ”
For many years I had served in the church in many capacities such as a youth minister, Christian Ed director and warden, but something changed when I relinquished control to God.
This was truly the turning point that God had been waiting for.
The very next morning, I’m driving to the airport to catch my usual 6:00 AM fight to LaGuardia.
I’m driving over the Ohio River across a bridge to the airport in Kentucky when I pass through a very dense fog as I cross the river.
When I get to the other side, the sun appears to fill a third of the sky and I sense the presence of God in a way that I had never experienced before.
I sensed that God was asking me to “Go and Prepare” for the ministry that would come before me.
I have no words to explain what this heavenly experience felt like, but I can tell you it was nothing close to any experience in my temporal life.
Time was so distorted that it seemed like a whole day and an instant at the same time.
When I finally regained my senses in the Kentucky Airport from a dreamlike time period, I knew that it was time to pursue a new vocation.
My whole focus changed from work to following this call.
I stayed up that entire night journaling my experience.
The next morning I was offered a job in Iowa and I really felt that I could pursue my calling there.
Over the next three years, I joined St. Tim’s in West Des Moines, went through a discernment committee and eventually met with the bishop.
He advised me to take EFM and if I still felt a call in four years to let him know.
I felt the call stronger than ever and went back to the bishop several years later.
He mentioned to me that he was worried about my family, losing me on several committees, and leaving a very good job, but he approved the committee’s decision to put me through to the next step.
The next summer, I spent time in the desert near Monument Valley praying and contemplating whether I should leave my job, my church, and my community.
My biggest fear I had was how it would affect my family.
How could we sell our house and afford tuition and an expensive apartment in the city without a job?
One morning, my daughter Samantha, age seven, walked into the kitchen and announced that she had sold our home.
We asked her to invite her friend’s mom to the house.
Ten minutes later, the house was sold and we agreed to have a real estate agent determine the price.
A month later, my wife; three children and our dog, Buck moved with me to Chicago, to attend seminary.
We had a garage sale, gave away the rest of our stuff to the battered women’s shelter, and moved into an 800 square foot apartment.
As I have continued my faithful response to God these past two and a half years by serving at St. John’s, there is always an openness to follow God’s calling in my life.
I tell you this story because I think that God comes to ordinary people all the time with an incredible plan.
The irony of the decision to go into the ordained ministry is that I thought that I was giving up a lot, but it turns out that I received way more than I ever could have asked or imagined.
I absolutely love my life as a parish priest.
My hope is that each of you will feel the peace that comes from being in the place where God has called you.
God wants to make a broken world whole and comes to people for different purposes.
Mary was uniquely favored to be the “Holy Mother of God” the Theotokos or God bearer.
God comes to ordinary people, but the grace given to Mary is especially unique, because in a short time, God will come from heaven to earth in a way that God has never come to earth before.
A child is to be born very soon.
God wants to heal this broken world through turning people’s lives and hearts to God’s will.
God’s reign on earth can only come when people turn control of their lives over to God.
With God all things are possible, but when we put our own egos and wills first, the world becomes a broken mess.
So God decided to show the world this incredible love for all people and nations through the gift of God’s only Son.
Let’s make this Christmas extra special by patiently waiting for God to come into the world and into our hearts.
God also waits patiently for ordinary people like you and me to be part of this incredible plan.
We are simply asked to be faithful to God’s plan and either say yes or no to God’s will.
My hope is that this Christmas our faithful response will be to open our hearts to God just as Joseph and Mary did. Amen