‘Everybody Move’: a sermon on Luke 2 & ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’

The fourth and final Sunday of Advent happened the day before Christmas Eve.* So it was already a challenge to separate Sunday’s message from one to give the next day. Add on the bonus level challenge of the same scripture reading as Christmas Eve (Luke 2:8-20)…and the result is one confused preacher. Fortunately, I had the African-American spiritual, “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” to pull me out of my own mucked up mind.

As previously noted, our church used Mary Had a Baby by Cheryl Kirk-Duggan and Marilyn E. Thornton for both our Advent study and the focus of our Advent worship.

Mary Had a Baby

Eventually I figured my best course of action was to simply admit it and lean into my confusion about both what day it was and how to differentiate that day from Christmas Eve. Baptizing a baby named Brandon during worship that day helped. You’ll hear him referenced. There’s also a slight nod toward Lord of the Rings.

I think I was trying to say that as tempting as it is to want to keep things the same, we don’t grow that way. God calls us into the present and future to increase justice in the world. Top moments, as I see them:

Today is full to the brim with potential energy. Just waiting to burst forth. But that’s also the problem. Too often we’re content with the potential. Too often we convince ourselves that staying put is for the best.

And, quoting Mary Had a Baby:

“Go Tell it on the Mountain” reminds us to tell the story about a child who faced homelessness, poverty, lack of documentation, injustice, possible imprisonment, and death.

What do you hear? How should we go and tell this gospel story?

 

*The day my kids would call “Christmas Eve Eve.” Because they, like so many others I’ve encountered, think “Eve” means “the day before.” I disabuse them of this notion in my Christmas Eve sermon. Ok, I had to disabuse myself of that notion too.

 

‘Time to Go!’: a sermon on Mary’s song, Joseph’s census, & ‘Children, Go’

If that title suggests to you that this sermon might be trying to do too much…well, I probably can’t argue with you. It’s probably not my best. Still, though, I thought the conclusion was actually pretty good. Poignant, even. I’m not sure my congregation agreed. Maybe it was too on the nose? (If so, just wait until you hear my Christmas Eve sermon!)

For Advent this year, our study groups read Mary Had a Baby by Cheryl Kirk-Duggan & Marilyn E. Thornton (photo above). So we based our Advent worship gatherings on the book too. That’s why our readings didn’t follow a lectionary (neither Narrative nor Revised Common) — we used the scripture and the spiritual referenced in each chapter. This week those were Luke 2:1-7 and “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” But I also wanted to talk about the original Advent song: Luke 1:46-55.*

My intended thesis (quoting author Arundhati Roy),

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

came as a result of reading Fred Clark’s Advent series.

Info on the route Mary and Joseph might have taken came largely from Adam Hamilton’s book, The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem.

Here’s the audio:

What did you think, was the conclusion over the top?

We can hear this new world breathing every time we become aware of those movements into freedom and justice too.

This new world, she takes a breath every time a parolee puts on a new suit.** 

This new world, she takes a breath every time a person experiencing a mental illness receives support and treatment. 

She takes a breath every time a lonely child is welcomed at a lunch table.

She takes a breath every time a grieving person is comforted. 

She takes a breath every time a woman is believed when she reports abuse. 

This new world, she takes a breath every time a hungry child gets a free meal at school.

This new world, she takes a breath every time a person experiencing homelessness receives not just a meal and shelter but a kind word.

She takes a breath every time a refugee or asylum seeker finds a safe place to stay like Mary & Joseph & Jesus did.

She takes a breath every time a law or an accepted practice meant to keep an African American “in their place” is repealed or dismantled.

She takes a breath every time one of us sees the humanity in someone who is different from them.

She takes a breath every time one of us recognizes that those we oppose are struggling too.

She takes a breath every time we break down a barrier or reach across an aisle of divide.

 

*Yes, we read that one from The Message. I really liked the way it rendered verse 52: “knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud.” Seemed the best way to reckon with Trump’s America.

**That’s a thing, I’m proud to say, Woodridge UMC is helping to make happen.