Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
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Less Perplexed

December 24:

Call:       Luke 1: 26-38, 39-45, 46-56
        Matthew 1: 18-25
Text:       Luke 2: 1-20
Prayer: W&S #4
Psalm:  Psalm 96 (815)
Light:  Isaiah 9: 2, 6-7

                Less Perplexed

What a season!

A season of excitement and a season of joy.
A season of Preparation and a season of anticipation.

But too
A season of work and obligation
A season of tiredness and weariness.

It is a season when we are delighted to get together with others
And a season when we are delighted for those moments alone.

It is a season when we feel both blessed and challenged -
    Often at the same time.

It is a season when we find ourselves confused and perplexed.
And a season when we ask ourselves "Why are we doing this?"

In essence, this is a season
    When we feel like we are on a raft going roughly where we expect, but pulled and controlled by the current of the stream on which we are traveling.

We can say, "At last it is Christmas"   with enthusiasm
And we can say, "At last it is Christmas    with relief.

I'm sure that Mary
    The young woman chosen to give birth to the Christ
Also said,          "At last it is Christmas"
With both enthusiasm and relief
as well as all of the other often conflicting emotions that we experience at this time of the year.

Our lives during the season we call Advent, therefore,
    Give us some understanding of Mary's emotions
in the months between Gabriel's visit
and the birth in Bethlehem.

Gabriel invited Mary to climb on board God's raft
When he came to her and said,
    "Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you."

Mary    - as we would have been -       was perplexed
    She did not know what to make of this.

And it didn't get much clearer when the angel "explained,"
    That she would conceive and bear a son
    That her son would be great and called "Son of the Most High"
    And that God would give him the throne of his ancestor David.

Young woman,        early teens,       engaged, but not yet married
Small,      insignificant town, humble family

The idea that she would give birth to a king
    Did not make any sense to her

In fact, as a virgin,
The idea that she would be giving birth to anyone
        Did not make sense

When she inquired about that biological obstacle
    In his explanation the angel informed her
that her relative Elizabeth over in the hill country
            was six months into her pregnancy
although well past normal child bearing age.

And with that information she came to understand
    That God could do anything.

Trusting God, therefore, she assented
    "Here am I, the servant of the Lord,
        let it be with me according to your word."

With her head probably still spinning,
And still being unable to wrap her mind around the events,
    She set off for the hill country.
    Where she discovered that Elizabeth was indeed with child.

In fact, Elizabeth's child leaped in her womb
    When Mary greeted her.
And Elizabeth addressed her much younger relative as
    "The mother of my Lord."

This greeting confirmed what she had been told
But did nothing to answer the question "Why me?"
Or any of the other questions racing around in her mind.

Also remaining was the need to inform Joseph
    the man she was supposed to marry.

I am pretty certain that however much anxiety we have experienced this season,
    Very few of us can come close to Mary's anxiety level.
        In preparing to tell Joseph
    Or in meeting with him after someone else had let him know

No matter how compassionate Joseph might be
    Having to explain it to his friends when they found out.
        Would be difficult

Joseph was compassionate and thus resolved to quietly divorce her
    Rather than have her executed.
But a visit from God's angel, convinced him to instead marry her.

These two people faced and met the human challenges
as they prepared for Christ's birth.

They did so by relying on their faith in God's love and word

Even then, the challenges presented in preparing the way of the Lord
were not over.

In the ninth month of her pregnancy,
    They were forced to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem
In order to meet the Roman census requirements.

The two communities were not next door to each other.
They were 70-80 miles apart
    Roughly the distance between Potsdam and Watertown
And , the roads connecting them were hilly and rough.

While Adam Hamilton has suggested
that a trip from one to another would take 9-10 days
Other sources have suggested about four days.
But either way,
a trip of that length and over that terrain
    Would have been difficult for a healthy person
Let alone a young, pregnant woman at full term

And so Mary,
being a real person     and not a birth-giving-robotic-womb
must have been ready to crack.

She must have complained        about her misfortune
She must have wailed,       "Why me?"
She must have had a hard time thinking of herself as blessed
She must have wanted to turn around

But even as the contractions were getting ready to come
    She trudged forward, putting one foot in front of the other
    All the while wondering why she was about to give birth
        In a stable
        In a strange little town.

Mary was perplexed when Gabriel called her "favored one"

After nine months of carrying the child
And a several day journey over hilly terrain,
knowing she could give birth any day
She was still perplexed.

For it was impossible for the chosen young woman
To grasp or fully understand that her arrival in Bethlehem
indeed represented the meeting (as Phillips Brooks put it)
of "the hopes and fears of all the years"

It was only after the birth of her son
when Mary - like us today - could say
"At last it is Christmas"   With both enthusiasm and relief
For upon giving birth, she was visited by the shepherds
    Who told her what the angels had said about this child
        "to you is born this day in the city of David,
            a savior
            who is the Messiah, the Lord."

As Luke records it,
Mary,   now less perplexed  and more comforted,
treasured these words and pondered them in her heart.

These words gave her - and should give us - both comfort and joy
    And like they did Mary,
make us less perplexed about the significance of this birth

And as we learn of how this child's life unfolded,
The visit of the wise men
The announcement at his baptism
The words at his transfiguration
The cross and the tomb
The post resurrection appearances.

And     Christ's work, love, and presence in our own lives
    And in the lives of others around us,

we too should become less and less perplexed.

But even with all that you and I will never fully grasp
Nor will we ever    fully understand

Ultimately, like Mary, we have to trust God
And be willing and able to say,
    "Here are we, the servants of the Lord,
        let it be with us according to your word."