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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA       19014

610-459-2013
OFFICE




mail@calvaryepiscopalrockdale.org
SERMON
Advent 4
December 21, 2008
The Rev. Kristine Hill
667 Mount Road, Aston, PA   19014                                                 610-459-2013
Small Parish - Big Heart
The little church you've been looking for!
All are welcome!
Our Mission:

To worship
the Lord

To serve the
community

To grow the
church
2 Samuel 7:1-11,1
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38
The Rev. Kristine Hill, Interim Rector
munchkins  from the  Wizard  of  Oz  or  even  the  more  ordinary,  “vertically-
challenged”  people.    It's  a  good  day  for  the  kind  of  “little  people”  who  don't  
matter-much  in  the  world,  people  we  often  do  not  think  about,  whose  lives  are  
removed  from  our  own  so  that  we  tend  to  forget  about  them…  Palestinian  families  
living  near  Bethlehem  in  a  refugee  camp,  unable  to  get  into  Jerusalem  where  the  
jobs  are,  closed-off  in  a  world  that  offers  few  possibilities.    Today  is  a  day  for  
them,   and  for  the  rough-skinned  mountain  people  who live  hard-scrabble  lives  in  
the  wilderness  of  Afghanistan  where  it  is  terribly  cold,  their  clothes  in  tatters;  
everyone  suffers  and  food  is  hard  to  find.     This  is  a  good  day  for  people  who  
are  nervous  about  what  the  future  holds,  people  who’ve  lived  on  the  margins  for  
a  long  time – hoping  for  a  stable  home,  enough  money  to  go  to  the  doctor  or  for  
medication,  hoping  the  car  will  hold  out -  now  the  economy  is  sliding  into  decline  
and  they  wonder  how  much  worse  things  can  get.  

Today,  good  news  is  proclaimed  to  the  poor,  wherever  they  live.  They  don’t  even
have  to  give  proof  of  their  residency,  or  an  account  of  how  they  became  poor.  
The  good  news  is  given  to  foreigners  and  refugees,  to  people  who  are  here  
illegally,  to  folks  who  work  meager jobs and  send  money  back  home,  to  those  who  
don’t  know  our  ways  or  speak  our  language.    Today  a  song  is  sung  for  all  those  
people  who  live  in  pitiful  housing,  the  kind  where  roaches  swarm  the  cupboards  
and  rats  crawl  through  the  walls.  The  song  is  sung  for  laborers  around  the  world  
who  work  hard  day  after  day  out  little  pay  and  little  respect  but  keep  showing  
up.   A  voice  sings  out  for  unwed,  teenage  mothers  cast-aside  and  unwanted  --   a
voice  of  hope  and  solidarity.     Yes…  today  is  a  good  day  for  the  little  people  
because  today  God has  come  near,  very  near,  and  with  God’s  arrival,  the  little  
ones  will  be  blessed  with  love  and  dignity,  with  well-being  and  self-respect.

The  Word  of  God  comes,  today,  to  the  town  of  Nazareth.  What  kind  of  a  place  
was  Nazareth?  It’s  name  rings  in  our  ears  because  we  know  it  as  Jesus’  
hometown,  located  in  the  heart  of  the  Galilee,  the  place  where  Mary  grew  up,  
where  Joseph  was  a  carpenter.   Maybe  we  fancy  it  being  something  like  an  all-
American  small  town.   But  in  the  time  of  our  gospel  story,  it  was  nothing  like  
that.   In  Mary and  Joseph’s  day, Nazareth  was  the  tiniest  of  towns.  It  was  so  small,  
so  insignificant,  it  didn’t  even  have  a  city  wall  around  it  for  protection.  No  
dignitary  or  king,  no  honored  business  person  or  religious  leader  would  have  
bothered  going  to  Nazareth.   Being  from  Nazareth  was  like  being  from  Dime  Box,  
Texas -  which  is  why  in  John’s  gospel  Philip  says  “can  anything  good  come  out  of  
Nazareth?”  

Something  good  certainly  found  its  way  to  Nazareth.  The  angel  Gabriel,  on  a  
mission  from  the  Most  High  God,  arrived  in  the  little  town and  went  to  Mary’s  
house.    Mary,  a  fourteen  or  fifteen  year  old  girl,  engaged  to  Joseph  but  not  yet  
married,  had  been  chosen  for  an  incredible  honor.   She  did  not  come  from  a  
distinguished  lineage  -  kings  and  queens.   There  were  no  royal  families  in  
Nazareth.  Mary  was  just  an  ordinary  girl  who  looked  up  one  day  to  find  an  angel  
in  her  room,  saying  to  her,  “Greetings,  favored  one!  The  Lord  is  with  you!”   A  bit  
surprised  by  that  greeting,  she  wondered  what  it  was  all  about.

Indeed,  what  was  it  all  about?  Gabriel soon  told  her.  She  would  conceive  and  
give  birth  to  a  child  who  would  be  the  Son  of  God.  Yes,  she  was  a  virgin,  but  
the  Holy  Spirit  would  overshadow  her  and  the  child  she  bore,  therefore,  would  be  
holy.  That’s  quite  an  amazing  promise  and  it  would  be  quite  a  life-changing  event.  
Think  of  the  teenage  girls  in  our  congregation --  which  of  them  would  we  want  to  
see  become  pregnant  at  15  and  go  around  saying  “the  Holy  Spirit  did  it”?  But  
Mary  accepted  God’s  offer;  she  did  not  shy  away  from  this  calling.  She  believed  
God  could  do  what  God’s  messenger  had  said,  she  believed  all  would  be  well.      
St. Bernard  once  said  that  there  are  three  miracles  in  this  story  and  that  the  last  
is  the  greatest:  the  first  is  that  God  and  a  human  being  are  joined  in  Mary’s  
baby,  the second  is  that  a  mother  could  still  be  a  virgin,  and  the last  is  that  Mary  
had  the  faith  to  believe  this  mystery  would  be  accomplished  in  her.  (Martin Luther
Christmas Book, p. 15.)   

Hearing  that  she  will  give  birth  to  the  redeemer  of  the  world,  Mary  sings  out  the  
joy  that  is  in  her  heart:  “My  soul  magnifies  the  Lord!”  she  calls,  “my  spirit  
rejoices  in  God  my  savior.”  She  knows  that  God  has  blessed  her  among  women  
of  every  age,  but  she  also  sees  much  more.  Mary  sees  that  God  is  acting  to  
redeem  everyone  of  low  standing,  all  people  who  are  usually  brushed  aside  or  
forgotten  in  this  world.  “God  has  shown  strength  with  his  arm”  she  sings  “God  
has  scattered  the  proud  in  the  imagination  of  their  hearts,  he  has  put  down  the  
mighty  from  their  thrones  and  lifted  up  the  lowly.  The  hungry  he  has  filled  with  
good  things  and  the  rich  he  has  sent  away  empty.”  Mary  understands  that  the  
message  she  has  received  from  Gabriel  about  giving  birth  to  a  holy  child  is  good  
news,  extraordinarily  good  news,  for  the  little  people.   

Yes…  good  news  for  the  little  people,  those  who  don’t  count  for  much,  who  are  
easily  overlooked.  But  what  does  this  news  that  is  so  good  for  the  “little  ones”  
mean  to  us,  to  you  and  me  living  in  the  United  States  in  the  year  2008?    Most-of-
us  are  not  truly  “little”  people;  we  are  not  among  the  “throw-aways”  in  society.   
We  carry  more  authority  than  that,  we  own  more  stuff  than  that;  we’re  not  a  part  
of  the  invisible  populations  that  walks  the  streets.    What  do  we  think  when  we  
hear  that  the  hungry  will  be  filled,  but  the  rich  will  be  sent  away  empty? when  we  
hear  that  the  lowly  will  be  lifted-up,  but  those  who  are  well-off  will  be  driven-off  
in  their  imaginary  self-importance?      How  does  this  news  effect  us    who  are,  of  
course, the  “rich”  by  the  standards  of  the  world,  who  have  enjoyed  our  prosperity  
already?   

Let’s  reflect  for  a  moment  on  littleness  --  on  what  it  means  to  be  powerful  or  
vulnerable  in  this  world  and  on  the  role  Jesus,  himself,  adopted  while  he  was  
here.  On  Christmas  Eve,  when  Jesus  is  born  he  will  be  acclaimed  King  of  Kings  
and  Lord  of  Lords.  Yet  he  did  not  come  with  what  we  think  of  as  kingly  power  
and  glory.   There  was  no  army,  no  riches;  his  every  word  was  not  automatically  
obeyed.  No,  Jesus  came  as  a  helpless  baby,  born  to  unknown  parents,  raised  in  a  
tiny,  unimportant  town.  Not  only  born  as  a  “little  one,”  when  Jesus  was  grown  he  
had  no  place  to  lay  his  head,  was  harassed  by  the  authorities  for  speaking  the  
truth,  was  railroaded  on  false  charges,  and  put  to  death  by  the  state.   At  
Christmas,  God  is  not  only  born  as  a  human  being,  but  as  one  of  the  unknowns,  
the “little  people,”  no  power  or  riches  or  status.

Let’s  listen  again  to  what  the  angel  Gabriel  announced  and  ponder  with  Mary what  
is  going  on here.   Gabriel  tells  Mary  that  she  is  favored,  that  she  is  known  and  
loved  by  God  (little  and  unimportant  though  she  is).  Gabriel  tells  her  not  to  be  
afraid.  That  is  always  the  first  word  from  God’s  messengers  when  the  news  is  
good –  remarkably  good,  ‘salvation’  good.  “Do  not  fear.”  What  God  is  giving  to  
Mary – the  baby  Jesus – God  is  giving  to  the  world,  and  especially  to  people  
whose  lives  are  tough.  These  words  Gabriel  speaks,  then,  are  not  only  addressed  
to  Mary,  but  to  the  whole  world,  to  you  who  are suffering,  you  who  struggle  to  
make  ends  meet,  --  God  is  saying,  “I’m  here.    I  know  you  and  love  you.   Don’t  be  
afraid,  I  am  with  you.”     And  as  wonderful  as  that  is,  it  is     only  the  beginning.  
The  promise  is  yet  to  follow.  The  promise  is that  a  child  is  on  the  way -  a  child  
we  will  bear  in  our  bodies,  in  our  hearts,  in  our  hands,  on  our  tongues,  among  
us  and  in-between  us – and  he  will be  holy,  the  Son  of  the  Most  High  God.        Isn’
t  that  something!

St.  Bernard  had  a  good  point,  that  perhaps  the  most  amazing  thing  about  this  
story  is  that  Mary  accepted  what  the  angel  was  telling  her  and  believed  that  God  
would  accomplish  these  wondrous  things  through  her.   Once  it  was  clear  what  
would  take  place  and  how  it  would  happen,  she  didn’t  hesitate  but  said  “I  am  at  
your  service,  let  it  be  as  you  have  said.”   Just  like  that  Mary  believed  that  she,  a  
girl  who  had  never  “known”  a  man,  would  give  birth  to  a  child;  and  she  believed  
that  this  child  would  be  God’s  own  Son;  she  trusted  that  her  little  one  would  
grow  up  to  be  savior  of  the  world,  to  redeem  all  the  “little  ones”    --  bringing  
them  hope  and  love  and  every  good  thing  they  did  not  have  in  daily  life.    That’s  
an  astonishing  response.

Given  that  Gabriel’s  words  are  addressed  to  us,  as  to  Mary,  can we  respond  to  
them  as  she  did?   Can  we , also,  hear  God’s  promise  and  say  “let  it  be  as  you  
have  said,”  trusting  that  God  is  bringing  a  new  day  for  the  “little  ones”  of  the  
world?    I  wonder  if  we  have  eyes,  hearts,  that  are  able  to  see  with  that  kind  of  
hope,  that  kind  of  faith.   It  is  easy  to  get  discouraged;  we  see  the  hungry,  we  
see  the  hurting - people  who  struggle  and  live  in  broken-down  neighborhoods - in  
every  city  and  throughout  the  world.  With  such  evidence  it’s  hard  to  believe  that  
a  new  day  is  at  hand  that  will  turn  things  around,  that  will  change   anything.   Yet  
Mary  sings  today  that  the  might  will  be  cast  down  from  their  thrones  and  the  rich  
will  be  sent  away  empty;  the  proud  will  be  scattered  in  the  imagination  of  their  
hearts.  Then  will  the  lowly  be  lifted  up  and  the  hungry  be  filled  with  good  things.   
…   Life  does  not  always  stay  the  same…   some  “mighty”  folks  have  lost  their  
“thrones”  recently;  some  rich  are  being  sent  away  “empty,”  and  many  a  proud,  
wealthy  person  who  once  “owned  Wall  Street”  no  longer  has  that  imagination  in  
his  or  her  heart.    Who  knows  what  else  might  happen?

Listen  up,  little  ones,  you  who  struggle  and  suffer,  this  is  a  good  day  for  you.  
There  is  good  news  in  the  air.   God  has  sent  a  message  to  a  girl  named  Mary  
that  she  is  to  give  birth  to  the  Savior  of  the  World.  He  will  be  Lord  of  all  and  
King  of  kings,  but  he  will  rule  with  gentleness  and  truth,  with  righteousness  and  
love.  His  eye  will  be  on  the  lowly,  his  favor  will  be  with  the  weak,  his  
compassion  will  come  to  you.   Our  Lord,  Jesus.  His  compassion  is  with  you.   He  is  
coming  to  raise  you  up.                amen.