Advent Sermon: Be Filled With Wonder
This is what he said, "Hey, at that 'Praise, Worship, and Hot Cocoa Thing,' you know what you should preach on? You should preach on stars. I remember when I saw my first star. I was about 7 or 8 years old. I was looking through a telescope with my dad and I remember being so amazed because, for the first time, I realized that they came in so many different colors: blue and red and purple and gold... I had no idea - you should preach on stars."
"Thanks, babe," I said. "I’ll give that some thought."
A few days later, he said, "You know what you should preach on at that 'Praise, Worship, and Hot Cocoa Thing?' You should preach on candle light. Everything looks better in candlelight and, no offense, but everyone looks better in candlelight. It’s like grace. It makes everything look so beautiful. It's like it reveals the true nature of things - everything is beautiful, inside and out. Candlelight infuses everything with grace. It's the world exactly the way it's supposed to be."
"Thanks, babe," I said. "That’s a neat idea, I’ll give it some thought."
A couple days later, this is what he said, "Hey, you know what you should preach on? You should preach on the fontanelle, the soft spot on a baby's head. How you can see the baby's heart beat right there on the top of it's head. Soft spots - they're just so vulnerable and that's how God decided to come into the world, with a soft spot on his head."
After the third or fourth suggestion, I could feel my blood pressure rising.
"Listen," I said. "I don’t have time to think about stars or candlelight or soft spots. I have a sermon to think about. You know what would be super helpful, if you could just take the kids; maybe play a game with them and I can get into the zone."
Matt looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, babe. I’ll get out of your way. It’s just that at this time of year, I get so overwhelmed with awe.”
Now, don’t tell him I told you this but I swear, that’s one of the greatest lines I’ve ever heard, “It’s just that at this time of year, I get so overwhelmed with awe."
That’s what the Christmas season is for. That’s why we are gathered together tonight: to be overwhelmed with awe, to be struck down with wonder, to be amazed deep down in our bones by a good and gracious God.
And, really, when you think about it, that’s what the Christian life is all about. It’s not about do this, and don’t do that! It's about being overwhelmed with awe, struck down with wonder, amazed deep down in your bones by God.
I know it’s hard this time of year because you’ve got exams and papers and extensions.
I know it's hard to be filled with awe when you have all those presents to buy, cookies to bake, travel plans to make.
I know it's hard to be struck down with wonder when there are so many things competing for your attention; so many things, both little and big, like the lump you found in your breast and the doctor says it can’t wait until the end of the year. You need to get it checked out before Christmas.
It’s hard, isn't it? To be filled with awe with all those CIA torture reports coming out - the waterboarding (they called it "near drowning"), the sleep deprivation, the utter lack of respect for the human body.
It hard to concentrate on wonder when there’s a mother in Mexico weeping tonight because all she has of her disappeared son are some bone fragments and DNA tests.
It's hard, isn't it? To feel amazed by God when unarmed black teenagers are shot in the middle of the street and a grown man says 11 times, “I can’t breath!” And, the one who is supposed to be there to serve and protect him, does not loosen his grip.
It hard, isn't it? To be filled with wonder, to be struck down in awe, to feel amazed deep down in your bone and yet...
And yet, this is how it happened: there was a star over the place where that baby lay and don't you know, it was full of so many colors - blue and red and purple and fiery gold! You didn't even need a telescope to see it!
And the light that poured out of that star, it was like the brightest, most beautiful candlelight you've ever seen. It was like grace pouring out over the balconies of heaven making everything so beautiful, revealing the true nature of everything that God had created - it was all so beautiful, so very good!
And there was a baby there, with a soft spot on his head, and it was God all wrapped up in flesh.
It was God, who created everything: the sun and the moon.
It was God, the one who put the spots on the leopard; the one who created the giraffe.
It was God, so vulnerable, you could see his heart beat on the top of his head.
It was God, with Mary's milk on his breath and on his cheek. And, as she tired so hard to get a good latch (it's not as easy as you might think!), she saw everything...
See saw it all, the touching, the healing, the teaching…
She saw it all, the way that woman, who had the issue of the blood, lunged out to touch him and how the power left his body...
She saw it all, how they humiliated him, how they tortured him, how they had an utter lack of respect for his body...
She saw it all, how they humiliated him, stripped him naked in front of everyone...
She saw it all, the way they hung him on a cross to die (it was like near drowning!)...
She saw it all and she heard it all, how when he was hanging there, he said 11 times, "I can't breath." And, in the same breath, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing."
She saw it all, how after they took him down from the cross, and how he chose to lay down in the middle of the road with Michael Brown for 4 hours so he would not have to die alone...
Then, on the third day, she saw him rise again so that everyone might know that these things will not have the final word.
As she worked so hard to get a good latch, it's true: a sword did pierce her heart, but it's also true that she was filled with wonder, struck down with awe, amazed deep down in her bones by how good and how gracious God is.
Brothers and sisters, during this holy season of Advent that will always give way to Christmas...
During this magical season of stars and candlelight and soft spots, be filled with wonder, be struck down with awe, and be amazed by how good our God is! Amen.