Leapt into New Life

The backyard is a riot of green this week. So much so, that the library is green because of the light scattered through the leaves into the windows. I forget how green it can get while the leaves are waiting to unfurl. I forget how verdant spring can be when we are still in the barren limb days of winter.

Finally the earth has leapt into the days of new life. Finally the daylight lasts until well after dinner so that we can venture out in the cool of the evening. Finally we can celebrate.

Finally we are on the celebration side of Easter. We journeyed through a long and dark Lent and the sadness of Holy Week; now finally we have fifty days of Easter celebration. But we don’t have the end of the story. There are yet more stories to tell of the birth of the church, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the expanse of the Gospel. It’s a story we tell with our lives.

We tell the story of the Easter season with our joys and with our hardships. I’ve got friends whose daughter had open heart surgery yesterday. Their story is part of the Easter story. Another friend has an infant son with a diagnosis that no child has yet survived. Their story is part of the Easter story as they walk in the presence of God through the valley. I’ve got other friends dealing with bad news and hard days. The promise of the power that God used in raising Jesus from the dead on Easter is where we find our promise, for our days.

Even if things don’t turn out the way we hope, we still trust in the promise; we still participate in a beautiful story, we still venture into a new life together.

Promise

Promise is the sister of hope. She is given and creates a home for grace.

We have been given a promise of hope in the form of new life that we can live now. We need to live into it a little bit more each day. The promise extends past those who are consciously awaiting it, the promise shines into the darkness.

The promise that we celebrate this season is the pure embodiment of light eternal. It is a light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. The light does not go out.

Tonight is the darkest and longest night of the year. The Solstice comes tomorrow before the sun rises. We have less than ten hours of daylight where I live. And the daylight that I do have is heavily laden with clouds banked against the sunlight. Darkness cloaks the day early and remains far after I arise from bed.

But there is light.

Exciting things are in store.

Family is coming to celebrate, new presents are being purchased, and my favorite day of the year is only 4 days away. I know I’ve written about my favorite day before, but in case you missed it, my favorite day is Christmas Eve, and this year I get to do the whole thing with my closest family, a gift that we haven’t had in five years.

The days are dark and covered with shadows but light and promise peek through, illuminating times of joy and hope.

Five and a half years ago I promised to love and cherish the partner that has walked with me through valleys and over mountaintops. We keep learning from each other, encouraging each other, extending grace to each other. It’s not always simple or easy, but the promise that we made together those 66 months ago have found us a better and stronger team together. Remembering our promise.

Expectation

This is my sermon from this past Sunday. I enjoyed sharing with my congregation both the Gospel and the good news. 

Sermon Text: Luke 1:26-55

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-47

Mary exclaims the words of the Magnificat and celebrates her own blessings but she does not stop there; she also is given a prophetic voice and speaks of the radical changes in God’s Kingdom: of the hungry being fed, the  humble being exalted, the arrogant and rich scattered, and rulers being brought down from their thrones.

Her pregnancy as a young, unmarried woman could easily have been a place of shame and despair but instead, she realizes that she is bearing a child who is holy.  She is a young woman in First Century Israel, but she is well versed in the teachings of her Jewish religion. She knows the story of the prophets, and the promise of return from exile and delivery from oppression.

See, when Mary showed up on Elizabeth’s threshold, it wasn’t like she had sent a letter about the angel Gabriel appearing to her. Elizabeth had no reason to suspect that Mary was pregnant at all, let alone with the Messiah.

For six months Elizabeth had suffered as an old woman from pregnancy sickness and nausea, felt her belly grow and her feet swell, but, a few months into her pregnancy, she hadn’t felt the baby move. I wonder if she was fearing a stillbirth. She couldn’t go get an ultrasound, she didn’t have any other proof that the baby inside was healthy and so had been hoping against hope that this child she was bearing would be born healthy and whole.

When Mary called out to Elizabeth, John leaped inside her womb. Finally, her baby had quickened and was there, present and healthy. Elizabeth knew that something special was going on with Mary as well. There was something new and different with her little cousin.

Indeed, Mary was pregnant, and I would have loved to hear that conversation between the two of them, Elizabeth telling how Zechariah came home unable to speak, but he still wrote to Elizabeth an account of what had happened to him. That this child she would bear was to be named John, and that he would be a prophet, set aside for holy work, and prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.

And then there was the story Mary had to tell, about the angel Gabriel appearing to her, and how she indeed was to bear a child named Jesus, and that he would be the Son of the Most High, the Son of God.

These are both two very big stories, and as we witness them, hear the promise re-told, we are invited to participate in the stories ourselves.

See, we may not be bearing any Sons of God anytime soon, but we do bear the image and likeness of Christ. We are called to bear the image of God’s Son in the world, to share the Living Word with the people around us, to deliver the message of salvation, hope, peace, and the coming of the Kingdom of God with those around us.

And y’all, I have a sign of hope I would like to share with you.

We’ve been waiting, we’ve been praying, and finally John and I are going to have a baby. We are expecting our first child in July. We are ecstatic. and our family is thrilled as well.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for God has done great things for me, and holy is God’s name.

Now, I’m not bearing the baby Jesus in my womb, but I have been tasked with the privilege of bearing another life into the world.

In a way, this is what we are all called to do. We are called to bear the life of Jesus into the world. We bear the Word of God within us, and we are called to deliver it to the world.

May our hearts be filled with joy in the same way that both Elizabeth and Mary’s were. And may we be led to share this glorious news with everyone around us, in the same way that new parents cannot wait to tell the world that they are having a child.