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Advent Series IV - Where in the world is (Waldo) God (Luke 1:26-38)

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38

Where in the world is (Waldo) God?

Dear Christian Friends:

The peace and joy of Christ be with you now and throughout the year. Do you remember the “Where’s Waldo” books. Each page would be filled with characters and you would have to search carefully to find Waldo, hiding someone in the midst of all the people on the page.

When I think of the appearance of the angel to Mary, and the angel’s proclamation that Mary was going to give birth to the Son of God, my first reaction was: who would ever think to find the Son of God here? One would expect that the Son of God would be born in a palace in Jerusalem of parents who had power and influence in the world. One would expect the Son of God to be born where he would have the best opportunity to influence and change the world. But our gospel lesson this morning tells us that

Mary of Nazareth is going to be the mother of the Son of God who comes as Savior of the world. Nazareth is a little town in the middle of nowhere. It had such a bad reputation that when Philip told Nathanael that they had found the Messiah and that he was from Nazareth, Nathanael said: Can anything good come out of Nazareth? No one was looking for the Messiah in Nazareth. Mary was a poor, young girl. No one was looking for the Messiah to be born of poor parents.

When the time came for Jesus to be born, Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem, and they were so poor, they couldn’t even arrange to get lodging in an inn. Jesus was born in the humble surroundings of a stable. He was placed in the straw of a manger, used to feed animals, and he was not wrapped in robes, and blankets, but with swaddling clothes or what we would call rags. It certainly would be easy to overlook the Messiah in a manger in Bethlehem. Jesus may not have been born into a family of wealth and influence, but he was born into a family of faith. One of the most powerful statements of faith is made by Mary in our gospel lesson this morning.

When the angel declared that she would conceive a child by the power of the Holy Spirit, she responded: Let it be with me according to your will. What an incredible statement of faith. When the angel told Mary the news, it meant her life was going to change dramatically. She was engaged to Joseph, and he and everyone else would assume she was guilty of adultery. It was even possible that she could be stoned to death. Yet despite the possible end of her betrothal to Joseph, despite the possible suffering she might face, she humbly responded: let it be with me according to your will. I will trust you God. You have told me that I have found favor in your sight, so I will trust you. The faith that Mary had at the announcement of the angel is the same kind of faith that Jesus had in the garden of Gethsemane.

When Jesus was faced with the prospect of having to suffer and die to atone for the sins of humanity, he prayed in the garden: let this cup pass from me, but not my will, yours be done. Long before Jesus was willing to submit to God’s will, his mother Mary set the precedent. She was willing to bear the Son of God, even though it could and DID mean suffering for her. What better training and preparation for Jesus to have than a mother who was willing to face hardship and suffering to do God’s will. If you had been looking for the Messiah, and you came across the garden of Gethsemane, and saw a man sweating great drops of sweat, it might have been easy to pass over him, and look for the Messiah somewhere else. In humble submission to the will of God, there you will find the Messiah.

The question we must answer now is: where will we find God today? Will we find God at the Crystal Cathedral or the Astrodome where Joel Osteen is pastor? Will we find God at the Trinity Broadcasting Network center? I have no doubt that God is working through those ministries, but the mark of God is not in rich, successful ministries. That is not what determines the presence of God. God is found where people like Mary humbly say, Let it be with me according to your will. And what it is that is God’s will for your life? Micah 6:8 tells us: “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” It begins by seeking justice for all people. To be fair and honest and law abiding people. But more than just doing what is required of us by the law, Micah reminds us to love mercy. Have compassion on those in need. Our SHIP house next door is like the stable on that first Christmas day. It doesn’t have air-conditioning, there are no marble counter tops or stainless steel appliances. The roof is old and the furniture is donated. That house provides a home for Howard and Will. That house provides a place of support, guidance, and help for people to get off the streets and back on their feet. It doesn’t look like much, but you’ll find God at work there.

Sometimes, when you visit nursing homes, the smell can overwhelm you. Sometimes there are rows of people in wheel chairs whose minds are clouded and whose lives are nearing an end. Yet, when members of the care and kindness committee make calls, sing a song, share communion, take time to be with people in times of need: you will find God at work there. When men sacrifice weekends to train for Kairos Prison ministry, and then spend 4 days in prison, sharing the love of Christ and the promise of forgiveness, there behind the walls of a prison you will find God at work. Wherever Christians humbly walk with God, act justly, and show mercy: God is present. God is also present in all those places where we cling to faith in the face of the sufferings of this world. When Mary proclaimed: Let it be with me according to your will, she made an incredible statement of faith. Even though she faced the prospect of persecution and rejection; even though it meant possible suffering, she trusting in God’s care for her. The Beatles captured that faith in their song: Let it be. When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me Speaking words of wisdom, let it be And in my hour of darkness She is standing right in front of me Speaking words of wisdom, let it be Those are words of wisdom and words of faith. They are not fatalistic word. Mary is not saying, Que Sera, Sera, what will be, will be. She is boldly proclaiming, Let it be, because God is watching over me. I can face the darkness because God is with me in the darkness. God is accomplishing his will in my life, so I need not fear the darkness or anything that comes my way. Mary trusted in God, and God was with her. God was with her on the long hard journey to Bethlehem, God was with her as she gave birth in a stable, God was with her at the foot of the cross as she saw her son crucified. Mary’s life was not easy, but through her, God gave us the savior of the world. God was present as Mary trusted in God’s care. God is present to us today as we trust in his care. Sometimes God can be hard to find, just like Waldo in the paintings, but he’s always there somewhere. So it is with God. God is present wherever people humbly submit to his will and live lives of justice, mercy and compassion; and God is present wherever people trust in his love in the face of the sufferings of this world. May the faith of Mary, but your faith today: let it be with me according to your will. AMEN

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