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Sermon For Sunday:

     Luke 1:39-56  -  Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen!
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I am holding in my hands a copy of one of the world’s most revolutionary documents. In it are found these immortal words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . .” Of course, that document, the Declaration of Independence, is the charter of the American Revolution. Though we have not yet lived up to it, it has been the vision that inspires us.

The only document I know that is more revolutionary is in our Bible. It is called the Magnificat and is found in Luke, chapter 1, verses 39 through 56.


Back before India won its independence, it was under British rule. Bishop William Temple of the Anglican Church warned his missionaries to India not to read the Magnificat in public. He feared that it would be so inflammatory that it might start a revolution!


The document is all the more remarkable when one remembers that it came from the lips of a simple, teenaged girl named Mary. She grew up in the obscure village of Nazareth in what is now northern Israel. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she had been chosen to be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah. Gabriel told Mary that her aunt Elizabeth, well past the child-bearing age, had become pregnant. Immediately Mary went to visit Elizabeth. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, both women sensed that God has chosen them for special tasks and would do great things through their children.


Mary was then given by the Holy Spirit insights far too profound for a simple teenager to originate. She declared the impact that her son would have upon the world. She announced three distinct revolutions, which Jesus would instigate and activate. She spoke of these revolutions in the past tense, as if they had already happened. The world has been reeling ever since under the influence of our revolutionary Lord.


A world shaping revolution is in place. Just this past week many wrongs in the mid East were set on the path of being righted: the proud have been scattered, the mighty have fallen, and the humble He has lifted. With these events in view let us turn not to the UN, not to any world leader, but to a young peasant girl named Mary, for it is HER words that are illustrated by these world events. Let’s consider that it was SHE that gave birth to the Revolution that is the pattern for all others.


1. The first nature of the revolution is spiritual.

2. The second nature of the revolution is social.
3. The third nature of the revolution is economic.


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Luke 2:1-20   -   Christmas Eve: What Was Seen At Bethlehem


I wonder what I would have heard had I been there that night. It is a question that annually haunts me. Would I have heard the choirs of angels singing or simply the sounds of barnyard animals shifting around. Would I have seen the star in the sky that night or simply two poor and very frightened kids. Would I have understood the hushed silence of the divine presence, or simply the chill of a cold east wind. Would I have understood the message of Emmanuel, God with us, or would the cosmic implications of that evening have passed me by?


I am convinced that had two people been there that night in Bethlehem it is quite possible that they could have heard and seen two entirely different scenes. I believe this because all of life is this way. God never presents himself in revelation in a manner in which we are forced to believe. We are always left with an option, for that is God's way. Thus, one person can say “Its a miracle, while another says “It’s coincidence."


Certainly very few people in Palestine saw and heard and understood what took place that night. The choirs of angels singing were drowned out by the haggling and trading going on in the Jerusalem bazaar. There was a bright star in the sky but the only ones apparently to pay any attention to it were pagan astrologers from the East. If anyone did see Mary and Joseph on that most fateful night, they were too preoccupied with their own problems to offer any assistance.


In one of the All in the Family episodes that aired some years ago Edith and Archie are attending Edith's high school class reunion. Edith encounters an old classmate by the name of Buck who, unlike his earlier days. had now become excessively obese. Edith and Buck have a delightful conversation about old times and the things that they did together, but remarkably Edith doesn't seem to notice how extremely heavy Buck has become. Later, when Edith and Archie and talking, she says in her whiny voices "Archie, ain't Buck a beautiful person." Archie looks at her with a disgusted expression and says: "Your a pip, Edith. You know that. You and I look at the same guy and you see a beautiful person and I see a blimp. Edith gets a puzzled expression on her face and says something unknowingly profound, "Yeah, ain't it too bad."


You see, what we see and what we hear in life depends not upon the events but rather who we are as people. It’s not what is out there but what is inside of us.


Many of you have seen again this year Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” There is one scene that has always fascinated me. Christmas Past has just paid a very discomforting visit to Ebenezer Scrooge. Clearly the old miser is shaken by the entire ordeal. But when he awakes from his sleep, does he take the message to heart? No, he simply dismisses it by saying: “Bah, humbug! It wasn’t real. Just a bit of last night’s undigested beef.” A vision to be taken to heart or simple indigestion? You tell me?


Oh, you say, had I been there at Bethlehem that night....


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Advent Sermon Series:

1: Let Us Go Over To Bethlehem & Find The Faith of Christmas - Lk 2:15-20

2: Let Us Go Over To Bethlehem & Find The Promise of Christmas - Mt 1:18-25

3: Let Us Go Over To Bethlehem & Find The Peace of Christmas - Lk 2:8-14

4: Let Us Go Over To Bethlehem & Find The Christ of Christmas - Lk 2:1-7


First Sermon: You may not remember Tom Southerland but you know his story. Several years ago Shiite Muslims in the Middle East held Tom Sutherland captive fore four years, much of his time was spent solitary confinement.  In his speech after his captivity he asked an unforgettable question.  He asked, “Do you know what it’s like to be in prison?  To be held hostage?  To be a captive?  It’s very lonely and you worry that people will forget you.  I felt abandoned.  I didn’t think anybody even knew I was in prison.”


During his imprisonment, Tom Southerland could hear a radio that the guards had.  It was tuned into the BBC channel and every day Tom Southerland would listen intently to the newscast hoping and praying that he might hear his name, hoping and praying that the newscaster would talk about him on the air and tell the story of his imprisonment and his innocence.  But his name was never mentioned so he assumed that nobody in the United States even knew that he was being held hostage.  Finally, after 4 years of captivity, Tom Southerland was released.  Our government flew his wife, Jean, to the area so they could be reunited.  They were so excited to see each other.  A few days later, they flew home together to San Francisco.  As they were getting off the plan back home in the United States, Tom Southerland was amazed to see that there were lights and television cameras, reporters and people holding signs… and a huge crowd at the airport.  Tom turned to his wife and said, “Jean, look at all these people.  There must be a celebrity on the plane with us.  Look around and see if you can spot who it is.”  And Jean said, “Honey, they are all here for you!  It’s you!  This is all for you!”


When his wife told him that, Tom Southerland started crying and he couldn’t stop.  He sobbed like a little boy.  He couldn’t believe it.  He said, “I thought everybody had forgotten about me.  I didn’t think anybody knew I was in captivity.  I felt completely abandoned.  I didn’t think anybody cared. Thank God I was wrong.”


The shepherds at the first Christmas must have felt something like that. Society had cast them out and pushed them down to one of the lowest rungs on the social ladder.  They were considered unclean physically and spiritually… and they must have felt abandoned and forgotten.  They must have felt like nobody really cared about them.  But then they found out on that first Christmas night that, thank God, they were wrong.  Somebody did care!  The One who counts the most did care!  He was there for them!  Of all the people on the face of the earth, the Angel of the Lord appeared to them.  And as they made their way to Bethlehem to see the Miracle of Christmas, they discovered in the process: three great gifts that Christmas gives to us; 3 great gifts that money can’t buy; 3 great gifts available now to you and me. Let’s take a look at these together.






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