(Micah 5:2-5a, Psalm 80:1-7, Hebrews 10:5-10)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/o8sze8pjOHA)
39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” 46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
As I was preparing for this week’s message, I stumbled upon some words of advice from the dating website, eHarmony.com. Now I realize that a dating website is a strange source of inspiration for reflecting on the week’s scripture readings but bear with me. Hopefully the relevance of my source will become apparent soon enough. So eHarmony, a hugely successful website in helping create loving relationships between people, gives out 10 free tips to anyone searching for true love this year. Presumably if you heed their advice, true and lasting love will come your way within a year’s time! Whether this time frame is realistic or not, the list does present 10 very practical tips that I would imagine would lead to greater possibilities for true and lasting love. Please allow me to offer their tips:
- You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person. Speaking from your heart doesn’t scare people off. In fact, it brings the right people together.
- Don’t write the person off…yet. Just because first impressions are powerful indicators doesn’t mean they’re the most accurate. Give the relationship a little time.
- Always put yourself first. You want to please the other person but this shouldn’t be at the expense of your own happiness and self-worth. Find a healthy balance of give and take.
- Switch the channel to “receive.” Like the previous advice, the right person will want to give to you and please you. You have to be able to receive sometimes.
- Stop pretending you’re something you’re not. The “perfect” you doesn’t allow for others to enter into your life. Nor does it allow love to enter into the relationship.
- Share your feelings without making the other person responsible. Expressing your feelings in a clear, non-blaming way invites the other person to be part of the solution.
- Don’t think too far ahead. Focusing on the future of the relationship doesn’t allow you to be in the present. Besides, a person is primarily drawn to your heart.
- Soften your body language. Rigid body language conveys guardedness.
- Don’t become exclusive until you’re committed. Stay open to other possibilities unless commitment is shared and expected.
- Open your heart and be surprised. Be open to love in whatever form or person it comes to you. Welcome the surprise!
I realize that most of us, if not all of us, are either in committed relationships or aren’t looking to enter into committed relationships. This list may come across as irrelevant to most of us. But is it? As we’ve journeyed through this Advent season, we’ve asked ourselves questions to help prepare ourselves for the coming of our Lord and Savior. We started the journey by asking ourselves, “Are you ready?” Are we living the lives we want Jesus to come into? Are we eager to welcome Jesus into our lives? If not, then why not? We asked ourselves, “Are you prepared?” How are we preparing our hearts and minds for Jesus to come into our lives? We asked ourselves, “Are you thankful?” Are we grateful that Jesus is coming to us? Do we carry an attitude of appreciation for all the God gives us each and every day of our lives, especially for giving us the Son? In just five days, we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. We will be celebrating how God chose to come into our broken world to offer hope and salvation. This a season of hope…of renewal and new life. Jesus is born anew! Hope and new life is born anew! Love is born anew!
That’s right…love is born anew. We will enter into a new loving relationship with our Lord and Savior. We will hear the story of his humble and bizarre beginnings in a manger. The leader of the land wanted him dead. He was miraculously conceived in an unwed virgin’s womb. Visitors from afar came to offer him gifts. It is such an unexpected story in which God comes to visit us; in which God shares His love with us. In many ways, it is a love story. It is an encounter with true and everlasting love. It is the start of a loving relationship between God and His faithful people.
The relationship that starts with Jesus’ birth is not unlike any of the relationships that start on dating websites like eHarmony.com. In five short days, each of us faithful believers will be entering into a relationship with Jesus. Like our earthly relationships with each other, the success of a relationship with Jesus depends on heeding advice like that shared in the 10 tips from earlier. By now, we should all be ready and prepared to welcome Jesus into our lives. We should all be thankful for being given the opportunity to welcome Jesus into our lives. But we must now ask ourselves, “Are you receptive?” Are we open to receiving Jesus into our lives? Are we open to the love that comes through Jesus? Is our body language softened and unguarded? Are we thinking too far ahead into the relationship with Jesus that we aren’t able to live in the present and give Jesus are hearts here and now? Are we open to sharing our feelings with Jesus and making them his responsibility? Are we open to stop pretending we’re something we aren’t? Have we switched our channels to “receive” for welcoming Jesus and his love into our lives? Oh, and that tip about being open to other possible relationships doesn’t really apply to a relationship with Jesus. Jesus is committed to each of us and demands exclusive commitment! There are no other relationships if you’re in a relationship with Jesus! Are you able to give Jesus your undivided commitment?
Being open to a relationship with Jesus is at the root of our readings assigned for this week. To be in a relationship with Jesus is to know who Jesus is. Micah, like several of the Hebrew prophets, prophesied the coming of Jesus to rule over Israel. As the prophet proclaimed, “And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.” Jesus comes to feed his flock and provides peace and security for his people.
Mary, in her encounter with Elizabeth, sang of who God is: “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” This is the God that Mary knew. This is the God we know. This is the God we see in Jesus. Jesus brings down the powerful from their thrones. Jesus lifts up the lowly. Jesus fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty. This is the God we know! This is God we enter into relationship with through Jesus. Jesus comes into our world, into our broken world, in order to fulfill the words of Scripture. That is, to “do God’s will” and offer himself as a sacrifice as the Hebrews mention in our 2nd reading.
Jesus the mighty, Jesus the feeder, Jesus the protector, and Jesus the sacrifice…this is the Jesus we enter into relationship with on Christmas morning. We can be ready, we can be prepared, and we can be thankful for Jesus coming into our world and into our lives. But will we be open to Jesus? Will we be open to the new life that comes with a committed relationship with Jesus? A relationship with Jesus can be just as stormy as any other relationship. A relationship with Jesus can have its good days and its bad days. Some days you’ll feel and know the love of Jesus, other days you will be searching for it. Be assured that Jesus will always love you in your relationship with him. True and lasting love can be yours this year and every year in a relationship with Jesus. I close out our Advent journey by simply asking, “Are you receptive?”
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.