These past three Sundays, I have included the stories of Naomi and Ruth, and Hannah from 1 Samuel, in our scripture readings. These are stories of belonging, and faith, and hope. Our sermon series centered on Gifts of Love. Through their faithfulness, these women brought babies into the world that would change life for the Israelites. This coming Sunday, we will hear the story of Mary, the expectant mother of Jesus. Jesus, who shares lineage with Hannah’s son.
It may seem that the Christmas season sermons ought to be called Gifts of Love, but these gifts had to come first, to prepare the way for this baby to born to us. The season we are moving into is called Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent means ‘to come’ in Latin. We are awaiting the arrival of Jesus in these four weeks. In essence, we are cleaning house, preparing for our guest, who is both like us and yet, is God. Advent is filled with anticipation for the arrival of the baby Jesus, much in the way we anticipate the birth of any baby. But, why are we eager for Jesus? What does Jesus’ birth matter to my life, or yours? Because a baby means hope for the future. A baby’s birth is meant to bring light and renewal and newness and joy. Jesus’ birth changed everything for the world by offering the greatest gift; that we are free from having to carry the burden of our mistakes. That beautiful baby in the manger takes them all upon himself and makes us new again. Not just once, but every time we need a heart and soul renewal. Every time.
In our Methodist tradition, because we are forgiven and so extravagantly loved (what we call grace), we believe in turning to help others. These are our Gifts of Love, borne out of God’s generosity to us. We raise money to make sure others have what they need, we pray for people in our little community and far away, we sit with people who are sick or lonely or are afraid, we teach little children they are loved by a God who knows them completely.
Some people like to talk about a vengeful and vindictive God. But Jesus came to show us how to love another. It’s all over the story of his life. A baby brings hope, and that’s what Jesus did for us: at his birth Hope entered the world. That is the Greatest Gift. And one young woman said yes to bringing Hope into the world. Ordinary people offering extraordinary gifts.
In the love of Jesus Christ,