4th Sunday of Advent - Dec 24, 2023
Rev Sarah Colvin
How many of you have had what people call “God moments”?
There are always at least a handful of people in any grouping who have had “God moments”, and not surprisingly a few more in a church gathering. I find it interesting because many people critique the Bible with the observation that God is not active in the world today like God was active in Biblical times as if that makes God’s Biblical activity questionable or unbelievable. Personally, I think God is just as active today, it’s just that we may not be so good at recognizing God’s activity.
So, what about these God moments? I presume everybody who has such moments have had slightly different moments, so what can we say about them? Let’s look at scripture, always a good place to start, or finish. Who is the most prevalent character in these stories of God moments, particularly in the Gospel? I am thinking the Spirit. The Spirit changes everything.
The story of King David being relayed through Nathan that God does not want to have a house built was from an understanding that God did not desire to be confined, that the work of the Spirit of God was free flowing. We have a slightly different understanding now. It’s not that we think God should be confined, but that our theology holds that God, by God’s very nature is not able to be confined. In either case: the Spirit of God, like the wind itself, cannot be boxed in or contained.
It is the Spirit who strengthens the hearers of the epistle to Romans. “God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ” --this reference is to God the Spirit, no question.
How about our Gospel for this morning? Yes, we do have a dialogue between Mary and the angel Michael, but it is the work of the Holy Spirit that changes things--- all because Mary said “yes”.
During this Advent, I listened to an online reflection from a retired New Testament scholar. She spent quite a bit of time on the word “ponder” – as in, Mary pondering things in her heart. Today and tonight, we will hear the word “ponder” more often than normal conversation for sure.
In her translation of “ponder,” and looking at other uses of the word, our word translated into English from the Greek might more accurately be translated as “shrewdly consider.” I always think of the word “ponder” as being closer to “perseverate” but without the negative connotations, but “shrewdly consider” means something very different. This scholar went on to point out that this particular “considering” carries with it the inability to make sense of something without divine help, divine intervention. Whatever it is will not make sense without God. It will not make sense without the Holy Spirit – the very Spirit who will bring Mary’s conception to pass to begin with. Clearly this was liminal time where everything was uncertain, and things don’t go according to plan. Things only made sense with God. Is our own time any different? We can only take a page from the time before Jesus was born, and trust in the one who cannot be contained to do the miracles we need among us.
The God moments that anyone has experienced are the work of the Holy Spirit and do not make sense without the Holy Spirit. As we approach Christmas Eve, rather rapidly now, now is the best time to be open to such moments, when God is up to something new.
We know that there are God moments that happen all around us. The point of the God moment is to change our insides, our hearts, shrewdly considering all that God has given us, given us as God’s son, and while we shrewdly consider and pray that God will make sense with the Holy Spirit and point us toward God’s new thing.
Steve Garnaas-Holmes reflects on this God moment given in our Scriptures today:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be holy;
he will be called Son of God.”
With Gabriel's news the cosmic becomes personal.
Christ is coming—God is embodied— in a new way, to transform the world,and whatever that is, it is happening in you. You are being asked to bear work that will have cosmic ripples. What is that new act of Creation God is accomplishing in you? What are signs of God’s new creating in your own heart and life? Look into your soul. Like gazing into a starry sky, it will require time for your eyes to adjust, time for the stars to come out. Give time and stillness to watch, to wait, to observe. What holy mystery is the Spirit doing in you? Wait, and wonder... and say Yes.
Shrewdly consider, ponder, say yes, change the world. The Spirit is working in us whether we know it or not, working to redeem the world one heart at a time. I am convinced it is never just for wonderment that God acts in the world, that you sense the Spirit moving. God is always redeeming, bringing into the fold, and showing mercy, so that we can say yes to redeeming, bringing others to God and showing mercy. And by that, the whole world can be changed. AMEN.
Pittman, Lauren Wright. Marys Song, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57074 [retrieved January 14, 2024]. Original source: Lauren Wright Pittman, http://www.lewpstudio.com/.