St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-11-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-11-2016

Love (Without Fear)

Isaiah 35:1-10, James 5:7-10, Luke 1:46-55

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I think I’m safe to believe that everyone here knows what it’s like to have your heart broken by someone you’ve loved. And I’m likewise fairly certain you all know how completely devastating it is when that heartbreak comes by way of someone you’ve given your heart and soul to; someone you’ve tried, with all your might, to hold on to; just turns around and walks away; or, worse yet, walks away angry, shouting hurtful words that you cannot believe are coming out of the mouth of someone you love so deeply.

Perhaps it was way back, before you were first married, when a lover decided they didn’t want to continue a relationship. Or maybe it was someone you had already committed yourself to. Perhaps it was a close friend you had a disagreement with that could never be reconciled. Or maybe it was your own child in the rebellious years of their life.

Whatever the case may be for you, let that thought and the feelings that come with it dwell in you for a moment. Think about how you reacted in the immediate time. And think about how you handled it over time.

In the immediate time: did you become angry? Were you so hurt that you felt hatred toward the one who hurt you? Did you internalize it and begin to hate yourself? Or were you able to simply let it pass without emotions at all?

Over time: Did you hold on to that hurt until your heart was cold and bitter toward that person? Do you continue, to this day, to get a chill and a foul taste in your mouth when you hear their name? Do you still hold a grudge? And were you ever reluctant to love like that again out of fear of being hurt like that again?

Now, as those thoughts set in, think about our God; our creator; our Father; the one who loves us so.

In the beginning God created humanity starting with one man and one woman. He loved them; He declared them “very good”; He gave them everything they needed: dominance over all nature, a garden to live in and the company of himself and each other. And He gave them onerule to follow. Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And what’s the first thing they do? They eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Imagine how God felt. He gave his children, whom he loved so dearly, everything they could possibly need and they turn their backs on Him for something better, or so they thought. And this was in the first generation!

The second generation learned to kill one another. Soon they were creating their own Gods, warring for plunder, being greedy, self centered, and generally unrighteous until God couldn’t take it anymore and he whipped them all out with a flood! All but one family that is, one more second chance.

Shortly after that the relationship between God and His children went downhill again and the disobedience led to more killings; more wars, more deceit. But did God stop loving them? No! Once again, one more second chance was given as God sent Moses with the power to lead His children out of slavery in Egypt.

But even then, before they get to the land God promised them, they turned from Him yet again! But did God abandon them in the wilderness? Did He stop loving them? No! One more second chance was given and God’s children had a land of their own.

On and on the story goes, God creates and His children fail to appreciate what they have. God saves and His children fail, God gives so many second chances, so many times he has His heart broken, yet time and time again He returns with love for His children and helps them out of their self-dug pit one more time.


Now, bring back those thoughts I left you with a few minutes ago; the ones about your personal experience of being hurt by someone you love. Do you think you have the slightest ability to compare what you went through to what God has gone through? I hope your answer is “no”.

Okay, so we really don’t know if God deals with heartbreak as we do. And the time after time of forgiveness over thousands of years may be to him a few blinks of his eyes for all we really know. And could God ever be reluctant to love like that again out of fear of being hurt like that again? Who could know?

But that is precisely my point. We can’t know if God feels hurt like we do; but we are certain He doesn’t hold a grudge, or refuse to love again. He’s proven it time after time after time.

In this season of advent we prepare ourselves to receive that love once again; remembering the greatest gift ever given; God’s only Son our Savior. But God didn’t give Jesus to a world that deserved one more chance; He sent the Savior into a world just as messed up as ours is today!

 That gift was, and is, the gift of the knowledge of the depth and breadth of God’s ability to love us in spite of our sinful nature, our disobedience, and our failure to love him as he first loved us! And even though it is given freely, it comes with a challenge; the challenge to love as God loves.

Jesus tells us this plainly with words like “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ” And, forgive “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times”. This is hard for us mere humans: hard to understand much less do! But what else does Jesus teach us about love of God and neighbor?

Think about the very beginning of the revelation of the coming of The Christ. The angle appears to Mary and announces that she is about to bear the Son of God! Now, ladies, what would you feel; First at the apparition; and second of becoming pregnant out of wedlock? But what does the Angle say? “Don’t be afraid”.

And gentlemen, think of Joseph when he hears the news of his promised bride being pregnant; what humiliation! And what does the Angel tell him? “Don’t be afraid”. And those shepherds when the announcement of God’s love for them came via a multitude of Heavenly Host. What do they hear? “Don’t be afraid”.

God’s love can come to us in surprising ways, but just as we would assure our own children, we are assured time after time “Don’t be afraid”! And, on the other side of that coin, we are called to love, to forgive, and to love again, just as God has done for us; and to do so without fear.

In this third Sunday in Advent we celebrate God’s gift of Love. But it is not only God’s love for us, his children; nor is it only our love for God, our Father; it is the God given gift of being able to give and receive God’s love and to understand how to love God, neighbor, and ourselves without fear; knowing that if we don’t get it right the first time, we will always be given one more chance. Amen.


Isaiah 35:1-10
35:1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus
35:2 it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.
35:3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.
35:4 Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”
35:5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
35:6 then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
35:7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
35:8 A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
35:9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.
35:10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.


James 5:7-10
5:7 Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.
5:8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.
5:9 Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!
5:10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.


Luke 1:46-55
1:46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
1:47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
1:48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
1:49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
1:50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
1:51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
1:52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
1:53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
1:54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
1:55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”