Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 35:1-10
Luke 1:46b-55

Long long ago shone a star far above the mountains
Three mighty kings wandered far ‘cross the dessert sand
All that they had was their faith in that star to guide them
Journeying through such a strange unfamiliar land

How would they find their destination
Three mighty kings didn’t know which way to go
But they trusted that light and revealed to them that night
Was the beauty that was Bethlehem below.
And it was amazing. So amazing.

Witnessing a miracle come true.
And it is amazing; so amazing – what a little faith can do.
What a little faith can do.

Long long ago a people yearned for freedom
Barred by a king from the only god they’d known
All that they had was their faith in that God for guidance
Strong enough to see that king over thrown

How did they manage in the darkness?
With just one drop of oil to light their way.

Not enough for one night, but what a beautiful sight to
See the flame burn stronger day by day
And it was amazing.  So amazing.
Witnessing a miracle come true.
And it is amazing.  So amazing what a little faith can do.
What a little faith can do.

How precious is the mystery.  How beautiful the thought
That there is so much more to life than what we’re told or taught
You ask what I believe in.  What forces rule above.

Can’t say for sure if angels fly but I can feel their love
And it was amazing
So amazing.  Believing that such miracles come true
And it is amazing.  So amazing what a little faith can do.
What a little faith can do.[1]

If you were not present with us last Sunday, our choir sang this beautiful ballad.  It stirred my soul in the most extraordinary way and has stayed with me all week.  I decided to exercise my pastoral authority and asked Derrick if they could sing it again this morning.    And don’t be surprised if you hear it over and over and over again, because we need to be reminded of why we are here and what even the smallest amount of faith can do.  Jesus said that if we have the tiniest bit—the size of a mustard seed—we can move mountains.

From beginning to end, this holy season of Advent is wrapped up in that sense of wonder and amazement as we imagine and reimagine what is possible for us and the world.  It is filled with the most amazing answers to all kinds of questions, reminders of who God is and how God works.

Who?  A young virgin girl, poor immigrant parents, angels and choirs, and smelly old shepherds keeping watch in their fields by night.

Where?  Nazareth and Bethlehem, small towns and villages much like the ones that some of us come from.

What?  A little baby boy, the first born wrapped in swaddling clothes with a bed of hay for his head.

How?  By the power of the Holy Spirit to a virgin, a most spectacular miracle

And then to whom?  To you and to me, yes to you and to me, the likes of us and to the whole world; a better hope, a brighter future.

And it is amazing what a little faith can do, is it not?  I think so.

A little faith and a little courage; a little resolve and a little determination can go a long way because what we believe means everything.  It governs the way we think, the way we think about ourselves, and the ways we think about other people in relation to ourselves.  It guides what we say and what we do and how we press forward on issues that matter for the greater good.

I’ve been thinking about this church as I always do; how we are growing and making plans for a future whether any of us here today are able to realize all that God has in store.

I know that I won’t be, but it doesn’t even matter.  I have been thinking about this opportunity set before us in our time to do something bold and wonderful and radical for God.  Open doors really meaning open doors to all who come to be renewed and revived, drawn in out of the cold for just a little while.

I’m thinking about that and what it means to be a community, exemplars of God-like faith in our time when our country is divided and our denomination is divided and people are disillusioned looking for a light and a flicker of hope, amid the violence and senseless killings of mind, body, and spirit; and the pendulum that constantly swings toward self and how we must exercise our moral authority, and it takes faith to do that.  Faith to believe that there is something better and possible; that there are other recourses worth pursuing.

I believe that there ought to be someplace in the universe, call it the Church, that is true and authentic, imperfect as it may be but a sound alternative to the rhetoric and noise that we see and hear so much of these days.  A place that can clearly differentiate between right and wrong and name it.  A place big and bold enough to embrace love as its core; loving all sides, the guilty and the innocent, but is clear about difference.

There are some things are just plain wrong, dirty, and ugly, and there is no ambiguity about it.  Lying is not the same as telling the truth.  Bullying is not the same as being kind.  Love of God and love of neighbor does not include violence, hatred, and the like.  It is wrong.

I believe that there ought to be a place where children from all walks of life can come together to learn and play together, to grow in settings different from anything else they experience, and to be taught from an early age how to value and appreciation “the other” by precept and example.

Because children don’t care about any of the lines we draw around ourselves.  Children don’t care one bit;  they just want to be safe and loved, and if we can provide that somehow, embodied along with their parents they will grow into decent human beings, and Lord knows we need that.

I believe that it is time, high time that someone who looks like me, who works the way I work, and cares the way I care should be able to sit at the table with a reasonable expectation of receiving her due diligence on behalf of those that matter most.

Here we are in this dark hour that is calling to us.  Can you hear it?  It is calling.  And this great opportunity is set before us pregnant with all kinds of possibilities.

We long for that day “when the wicked shall cease from troubling and the weary shall be at rest,” do we not?   “When every valley will be exalted, and every mountain and every hill be leveled.  When the crooked places will be made straight and the rough places made smooth.  And all of humanity, will see the salvation of our God.”[2]

We long for it, and deep down we know that it is our responsibility to lead the charge as best we can.  Because these are God’s words, and we are God’s people, and we are the body of Christ in the world.

In our gospel lesson this morning, Mary, Mother of God, the first disciple, the archetype, the embodiment of committed faithfulness, sings a song.  She sings.

The Magnificat is both song and prayer.  Mary sings and gives praise to a future hope though it has not yet appeared and thousands of years in the making.

My soul magnifies the Lord for God has done great things for me…
He has shown strength with his arm and scattered the proud…
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.
He has helped his people in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he has made to their ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever and ever.[3]

She sings for us, for we too are Abraham’s seed.  She sings perhaps at the joy of giving herself, her whole, her best self, all she has for this great thing that God is doing.  It makes me want to sing.  How about you?

She sings before she marries Joseph.  Before all the details are worked out in her mind.  Before anyone else agrees or believes in her other than cousin Elizabeth.  She sings in joy and disbelief.

And we ought to sing too.  We ought to sing in the darkness until the darkness becomes light.

How beautiful the thought
That there is so much more to life than what we’re told or taught
You ask what I believe in.  What forces rule above.

Can’t say for sure if angels fly but I can feel their love
And it was amazing

So amazing.  believing that such miracles come true
And it is amazing.  so amazing what a little faith can do.
What a little faith can do.[4]


[1]Heisler, Marcy, Amazing (What A Little Faith Can Do), Music by Zina Goldrich, 1999 Goldrich & Heisler
[2] Isaiah 40:4-5a
[3] Luke 1:46-55
[4] Ibid, Amazing (What A Little Faith Can Do)