Advent 4 – Rough Draft Sermon

Note that the headings are not part of the text to preach. Just for organization and brought forward from Outline.

Still missing one story, of the Magnificat being prohibited. It’s here somewhere. But then this obviously needs LESS by half not MORE.

This is not my childhood in Tanganyika when services were all day and sermons multiple hours long.

Mary sings

The Gospel Lesson is Mary’s Song. She sings it loud as many have since. It is a song sung even by captives and always by people of joy and hope. But be careful, singing this song and others can have unforeseen consequences.

Velvet Revolution story

The protesters in Leipzig in 1989 knew (the power of singing) well. While that element sometimes gets overlooked in the histories of the “velvet revolution,” it’s striking to note that for several months preceding the fall of the Berlin wall, the citizens of Leipzig gathered on Monday evenings by candlelight around St. Nikolai church – the church where Bach composed so many of his cantatas – to sing, and over two months their numbers grew from a little more than a thousand people to more than three hundred thousand, over half the citizens of the city, singing songs of hope and protest and justice, until their song shook the powers of their nation and changed the world. Later, when someone asked one of the former officers of the Stasi, the East German secret police, why they did not crush this protest like they had so many others, the officer replied “We had no contingency plan for song.” (David Lose “In the meantime…” 2015)

But in the DDR in the 80’s (Tim visited and heard this for himself) it was a well-known, unknowable, among church leaders and government people:

Eric Honecker, leader of the DDR, and Bishop Schönberger, knew each other, and respected each other. They had both been in concentration camps under the Nazis.

Honecker and Schönberger had an arrangement, that the church could be the pressure relief valve for the state, and …

Well, the lack of contingency for singing was known well among church leaders, and known as an intentional ‘lack of preparation’ by Honecker. Together and so as not to be documented, the two leaders planned for the fall of East Germany back into a reunified Germany.

Today our song is from the Psalm


Restore us, O God. Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved!

Shining face: the image from winter sun

The refrain becomes most poignant in juxtaposition to the troubles of the people. Still on its own it bears noting that to have God’s face shine upon us is quite the experience.

Most everyone can remember a time when they felt the warm sunshine streaming down and warming one’s face. Imagine how good that feels on a cold winter day, when the sun only peaks up above the horizon for a few hours each day. Imagine that storms and snow and slush have filled the skies, days, and roads (streets for city dwellers) and for a time, the sun shines free, welcomed and warm … and for those few moments everything is alright. All is well in the world.

Now take that memory and transposed it into the key of G for God, the key of C for Jesus Christ, the key of S for the Holy Spirit …. While God’s face is hidden from us, we languish and no matter the circumstances of our lives, we find no joy, no purpose, no meaning for a life, for a year, for a day, for a moment. All is lost. Stretch this to time enough to make it the only memory that lives vivid in one’s mind, and the hope that sustains one disappears. God has deserted us, or so we experience life at that time.

Then enter on to the scene of our lives played out on a stage for all to see: God’s face, shining down on us … and all is transformed … there is no lack of joy, purpose and meaning for our lives. God is present: All is well. All is well. All manner of things are well. [Thank you Julian of Norwich.]

It is so good to bask in God’s shining in on us, knowing we will be saved.

Which just about sets the stage for a good nap. So I did at this point in writing the sermon, and in listening you may want to as well.

A nap

Begin able to nap is a sign of God’s presence

Amidst the challenges, to be able to rest in peace, or rather rest peacefully, when one’s enemies would prefer one rested in peace.

And after the nap, restored almost as good as new, we move on to face the challenges of our days.


In the OT lesson for today Micah has in typical prophet mode let the people know they have sinned and are suffering because of it.

Then he offers a vision, a restoration of to the times of old. Like David a leader will rise.

He gives the people the promise of a political solution for the challenges of his day.

We have used his words for much more, we’ve seen Jesus promised in them, and Jesus is so far beyond a political solution.

Jesus is God’s complete and final solution to the timeless challenge of scapegoating and sin.


Beyond comprehension

If you think Hebrews is beyond comprehension, good for you. It is written just as obscurely as the complicated laws of Jesus’ day: and no one understood it then either. Still we use it and I turn to it in the sermon because it makes clear that Jesus is the one time sacrifice,

who replaces blood sacrifice and the indecipherable religious laws, traditions and ideas.

Jesus is One sacrifice, one solution for salvation for all people, for all time.

Old Injustice … still

In those days then, with the complicated laws, Justice was who knows you, not what you do, since no one can keep the law. Not much has changed with today’s civil law – for some people who are wrongly found guilty, despite what the evidence is that should exonerated them. And our jails are filled with native men, and innocent men falsely charged by their intimate partner.

What’s gone wrong with us? We use to do allow a man to use the justice system to put an innocent woman in jail, or to keep her drugged for decades in a mental institution. Now it’s men. What’s wrong with us?!

All have and do and will sin

Still now, no one can keep God’s laws; no one is good enough to earn God’s favour.

We need God’s saving action now and now again and again, so we sing:

Restore us, O God. Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved!

Mary’s Song

Mary Sings a song. As all songs of faith well composed and well sung Mary sings a REVOLUTIONARY song.

It is not just revolutionary in that God inspires us to revolve, to repent, to turn about and follow Jesus, instead of walking our own way and demanding that God follow us.

This is revolutionary, as in More than a few oppressive rulers have prohibited the use of this song.

[Story of song banned.]


The start to Mary’s song is fitting. Mary starts with Joy. What better way to start singing of God’s presence in our lives.


Mary realizes that God has taken a turn away from the powerful to the powerless.

God looks to her, a lowly servant, caught pregnant before being married.

And Mary rightfully expects to be called great, not for what she has done, but for what God has done to her.

This God is not the God of judgment that so many people fear without love. This is the God of mercy from generation to generation.

God has great strength, and chooses to show it … 


But not to build up or sustain those with power and wealth, and pride.

God scatters them with their plain foolish pride their meager accomplishments as if they were seeds of weeds that are despised by all who see them grow.

The rulers are replaced.

Which is why many unjust rulers prohibit, under severe punishment, the singing or use of this song.

But to whom does God go?

God then lifts up the lowly.

God feeds the hungry, with not just cheap food, but the good stuff, the nourishing food that makes for health and good life.

The Rich God sends away empty handed.

This revolution changes all power and privilege.

So that those caught in the bottom of injustice can sing, for to them God promises good food, good life, fair treatment, and great hope.

Be careful

Using the Magnificat can make life changed, can change life, can bring us down if we are powerful, proud, and wealthy.

But it brings up those of us who are humble out of necessity and position, wise but poor,

Who must count on God’s grace to survive each day.

For our good honest labour has not netted us luxury and privilege, so that we can rest instead of working to survive the Challenges

Whatever they are:

[fill in your choice, these were mine]


Bitter cold


Enemies that want vengeance for things we never did.

Enemies that know nothing of who we are, except that they hate us and want us dead.

Coworkers who are corrupt, or abusive, or mean, or haughty and proud, or self-righteous and judgmental, or self-declared entitled. OR the challenges of







Global Warming

Disappearing fish, species, glaciers, clean water, honest people, friends … children

Cancer and other life taking diseases

Adjectives and Adverbs

“A young teacher landed her first job teaching children in a large city hospital. She taught those young patients who missed a lot of school. She developed a routine. When she received a student’s name, she first phoned the child’s regular school teacher to find out if there were any particular areas the child needed to work on.”

“One ordinary day her list included a 12-year-old boy named Tommy. When she spoke to his teacher, she discovered that Tommy needed to work on his grammar – particularly adverbs and adjectives. So she planned a lesson and took it up with her to the boy’s room.”

“The teacher, being fairly new to the hospital, only first realized when she arrived on the floor that Tommy’s room was in the burn unit. The sight of the small boy – terribly burned and in tremendous pain – shocked her to her core. But not really knowing what else to do, the young teacher began to work through her pre-prepared grammar lesson. The boy’s lips slowly answered her questions and responded to her comments. In great pain, together they completed the assignment.”

“After the lesson, the teacher fled from the burn unit, certain that her grammar lesson had been a callous and useless exercise. She was ashamed that she had not met Tommy’s obvious needs, somehow better.”

“For the next few days the teacher avoided that area of the hospital, not wanting to see Tommy or any of the staff who worked with him. Then one morning she found herself in the elevator with the nurse who had shown her the way to Tommy’s room.”

“‘What did you do to him?’ the nurse demanded. Lost for words, the teacher just looked at the nurse, wishing she were any place else. ‘What did you say?’ the nurse continued. ‘After you left, Tommy was a changed boy. We had just about given up on him because he had given up on himself. But his attitude was totally different after your visit. He started fighting back, and now his prognosis is really very good. Come see him.’”

“In disbelief, the teacher allowed herself to be led back to Tommy’s bedside. Sure enough, he was sitting up now. He was still in pain, but he was smiling, and that smile reached his eyes. Tommy explained to the teacher, ‘I thought I was going to die for sure. Then you came. When you left I knew I couldn’t be dying. Who would bother to teach a dying boy the difference between adjectives and adverbs?’” (source unknown)

Bad Genes and simply dirty jeans

Parents who need more than we can give, children who are almost on their own.

Grandchildren who cannot seem to live a life that is not confused and desperately chaotic.

Spouses who abuse and take everything we have to give and more.

Institutions that are corrupt and decaying, destroying people caught in their downward spiral.

Or plain Evil, in so many guises, tempting us to be God, and to try (futilely) to make our own lives good enough for God.

Save us we cry, Save us we sing.

From all that we need to be saved from, for we cannot save ourselves!

So we sing with a cry:

Restore us, O God. Let your face shine upon us, and we shall be saved!