Rev. James A. Splitt
December 19, 1999
Romans 16:25-27 Luke 1:26-38
Luke 1:26-38 [NIV] In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virginís name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." "I am the Lordís servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
Do you ever stop to wonder about where youíre going with your life? Imagine stopping right in the middle of the shopping mall. You finished 40% of your shopping. You calculate how much more you have to do. Who will you shop for next? Howís the money situation; when will you pay off the credit cards? So you pause, find a place to sit, set the packages down, and ask yourself, am I on track today with God? Itís that time of day you religiously set aside to reflect upon the quality and purpose of your life. It just so happens that today youíre in the mall, shopping for gifts for those special people you love. Yesterday, you paused for this reflection during your lunch break; the day before you pulled off the road into a parking area after leaving an afternoon appointment. You embrace the spiritual discipline of being still and knowing God. Itís been a couple of months now that youíve been doing this. It all began when you heard a scripture read that youíd heard many times, only this time it was different. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." [Matthew 11:28]. Up to this point, your life had been going nowhere; you were filled with stress. Each and every day had put you into a routine with little reward of fulfillment: same olí, same old. So in one of those bargaining prayers with God, you say, "OK, God Iíll come to you everyday for a year, but promise me that you will give me rest. Iím worn out going no where."
Joseph Campbell [see www.jcf.org/00a.htm], the famous author of The Power of Myth, and other religious and psychological works in a famous PBS interview with Bill Moyers (1981) confessed that most of his friends were living "wastelands lives." He said that they are "just baffled; theyíre wandering in the wasteland without any sense of where the water is _ the source that makes things green." [quoted in The Jesus Prescription for a Healthy Life, by Leonard Sweet, p. 188].
We live in a constant pressure cooker of demands upon our time. The buzzword of postmodern culture is multi-task oriented. We have many things to do, but we accomplish more if we can learn to do many things all at once. Listen to a book on tape while driving home from work. Do e-mail while preparing dinner. Read the paper while riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill. Keep up the pace all day and eat fast food. Iím wondering if any of you are wandering the wasteland without any sense of where the water for your life is. Do you know where to find the source of nourishment to feed your weary soul?
Ironically, when I read over this morningís scripture texts I was busy with other things to do. I was caught up in the frenzy of preparing for the celebration of Christís birth, wondering about the wasteland, going every which way. As I read the text, they were just words; no particular message grabbed me. However, because I do practice the discipline of being still and knowing God, I realized the scripture wouldnít speak to me until I pushed the pause button and let all the busy-ness around me settle. I needed the eye of a hurricane. It was halftime. I needed a time out. Now, I could read the scripture again and this time the message was there. In the three verses from the last paragraph in the letter of Paul there is a message so profound, that it might have been lost had I not stopped to listen. There was the sermon title: "Glory for Endless Ages." I recognized Paulís trademark in ending a letter. He writes a benediction, a blessing. A phrase in the first verse of this text caught my eye and poured into me through all my senses. I had skipped right by it in my cursory reading. The NEB (pew Bible) translates the beginning of this text: "to Him who has power to make your standing sure according to the Gospel I brought you . . ." TO HIM WHO HAS THE POWER TO MAKE YOUR STANDING SURE. Glory for endless ages is given to the One who has to the power to make our standing sure.
In our Christmas letter this year we ask the question, Where were the mangers of your life into which God was born anew, this past year? When did you find the power of Jesus in your life this year? Or when did you need the power of Jesus to help you stand sure? Paul writes his blessing as if he is disclosing the secret of the centuries. What remains true today, yesterday, and into the year 2000 is more than Y2K ready. The power of God is eternally ready to be our power. To tap into that power, we must pause and be still, and exercise that spiritual discipline of listening to the voice of God who comes to us in the stillness and quiet of a birth manger. We are to stop and behold the HOLY. We casually say Jesus is the reason for the season, but this statement is no casual statement; itís the truth. Jesus is the endless reason for all the seasons. There is eternal power ready to be established in you by a little child born in a manger. The power of God wants to be established in each one of us to make our standing sure. Godís power can change stress into joyous living, fear into living hope, despair in to spirit filled challenges. Standing sure is confidence, hope, peace, and contentment that we can make it.
Now after this pause in the Mall, a time to reflect upon where youíre going, a smile fills your face. The Spirit of God has refreshed you. Itís wonderful to be blessed with the love of God when we want to express our love to someone else. After all thatís what the gift of Christ is all about for us. _ GLORY FOR ENDLESS AGES.