Dec. 24, 2017 (Advent 4)
Luke 1:26-38, 47-55
Love in God’s Kingdom
Once upon a time, long time ago and in a faraway land, there was a young girl, probably barely a teenager, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph. One day an angel of God came to her and told her that she would have a very special son who would be called son of God and would reign the house of Jacob for ever. She was scared. How can it be? She’s not yet married. What would her villagers do to her? What would happen to her fiancé? It was really a lot to ask of someone. But this girl responded, “Let it be with me according to your word.”
The Virgin Birth is one of the most controversial doctrines of the Christian Church. There are a lot of people who believe in it; with God everything is possible, so why not? But for those of us who cannot and will not believe it literally, consider this. Jewish people believe that in the birth of every child, there are three parents; mother, father, and the Spirit of God. The Virgin Birth can be taken as a lovely and poetic way of saying the Spirit of God was operational in the birth of Jesus in a unique way. It makes sense. I can work with that.
One amazing thing about Mary being chosen as the mother of the saviour is that she not only accepted this daunting task, but considered herself blessed and praise God for it. Theologians call this the paradox of blessedness. God does not choose a person for ease, comfort, and selfish joy. As one great modern preacher said, “Jesus Christ came not to make life easy but to make men great.”
Mary’s song of praise dubbed the Magnificat, according to the Methodist theologian Stanley Jones, is the most revolutionary document in the world.” There are three aspects of revolution in the Magnificat. The first one is a moral revolution; “He scatters the proud in the plans of their hearts.” Christ disarms our pride and enables us to see ourselves. The second revolution is a social revolution; “He casts down the mighty-he exalts the humble.” Christ lived to uplift the downtrodden and outcasts, and died for all. This is the equity of God’s reign. Nobody will be called worthless under God’s reign. Nobody is lesser than others. The third revolution is an economical revolution; “He has filled those who are hungry… those who are rich he has sent empty away.” This song of Mary is the epitome of what Christianity stands for. The love of God changes each person, and the world.
There, I babbled for a while like a boring professor, didn’t I? It is because today’s Advent theme is love, and Mary’s acceptance of God’s will and her song of praise illustrate what love in God’s kingdom is about. Love is probably the most used and abused word in our world. There are tons of movies, songs, and books about love. Young people get infatuated and think it’s love. When we talk about love in the secular world, it might be about what we like; it tends to be about feeling/ emotions. I remember explaining to a young person the difference between “like” and “love”. I told him that “like” is about having fondness to something or someone, but love is much more than that; it includes one’s will and determination to care for someone and do what is good for them. If one’s pride is bigger, if one’s selfishness is bigger, it’s not love. One can like someone but not love them; likewise, one can love someone without necessarily liking them. That’s the general wisdom about love that I learned from the wise people in the secular world. Christian love, on the other hand, is greater than the love of the world because as we have seen in Mary’s song of praise, this love includes a sense of equity and justice. Love of God’s kingdom inevitably includes favouring the marginalized because God loves everyone and calls no one unworthy. Jesus lived and died for this love.
Christianity is a “people” religion; living in community is essential to its teachings; relationships are essential to its teachings. The Christian love starts from understanding the interrelations that connect us all. We are all connected and one person or group’s suffering affects others. Under God’s reign, we welcome strangers and treat others as we would like to be treated because of the love of God. We do not ignore those in need because of that love. We do not condone injustice because of the love of God. As we have seen in our gospel story, love of God also gives us the faith and trust to say yes to God’s call. Love, faith, and trust go together. God’s love teaches us that because God loved us first and without condition or discrimination, we should also love and treat each other the same way.
Advent is almost over since today is already Christmas Eve. Today is a bit odd because it’s Advent 4 and Christmas Eve at the same time. So we won’t be ending today’s service by saying, “Enter this Advent week with love.” Today as you go forth into the world and into the Christmas celebration, remember the love of God that came to us in a human form and taught us to love one another as God loves us. For those of you who are going away this afternoon or cannot come to our evening service, I will say Merry Christmas. To those of you I will see this evening, go with the love of God in your hearts.
Rev. Sunny Kim