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Rejecting Good News (Welcome to Our World #3, 2016-1218)

. 4 min read

12/17-18/2016
Christ Mountain Top, Advent 4
Psalm
80.1-7, 17-19 (not used on Saturday)
Isaiah
7.10-16, advent wreath
      With Nativity Hymn IV of Charles Wesley, v
4
Matthew
1.18-25, kids
Romans
1.1-7, message
Welcome
to our world
      In which obsessive religion is unworthy
      In which we marginalize the most
vulnerable
      In which good news is so often rejected
Welcome
to our world. The coming of Jesus …
      Invites those of us who think too highly
of ourselves to break through the barriers and labels and welcome one another
as Christ has welcomed us.
      Invites us to join him in going to the
margins, in solidarity with the vulnerable, in waiting for and expecting
justice for the oppressed.
      Invites us to unlearn our cynicism and
control issues and learn to trust.
Welcome
To Our World
  Chris Rice
Tears
are falling, hearts are breaking
How
we need to hear from God
You’ve
been promised, we’ve been waiting
Welcome
Holy Child
Welcome
Holy Child

Hope
that you don’t mind our manger
How
I wish we would have known
But
long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make
yourself at home
Please
make yourself at home

Fragile
finger sent to heal us
Tender
brow prepared for thorn
Tiny
heart whose blood will save us
Unto
us is born
Unto
us is born
So
wrap our injured flesh around you
Breathe
our air and walk our sod
Rob
our sin and make us holy
Perfect
Son of God
Perfect
Son of God
Welcome
to our world
Copyright ©1995 Clumsy Fly Music.
We
struggle to believe, to trust, in good things. Ever refused to accept a
compliment? Ever refused to trust in a too-good-to-be-true offer (even a true
one)? We protect ourselves from disappointment. We lower our expectations.
      So, when the prophet says, “Ask a sign of
the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (Isaiah 7.10), we
reply like Ahaz. “I will not put the LORD to the test.” Good news at risk of
rejection by the best of people, us included.
But
we have been disappointed before. We’ve had our expectations dashed before.
      GEICO
TV ad:
Man reading paper, ignoring woman
            Honey, does this make me look fat?
            [Not hearing or looking] You betcha.
            In the time it takes you to pull out
the sleeper sofa …
No
wonder we struggle to believe. No wonder we reject outright the good news that
is offered.
      A recruiter calls to let you know you are
a great candidate for the job, but someone else was hired.
      Someone says “You’re beautiful” but we
can’t hear it.
      The prophet says, “Ask for a sign” and we
treat it like a trick question.
      Lucy holds the football … and Charlie
Brown falls for it. Every time.
      The angel says, “Your fiancé really wasn’t
unfaithful to you. God got her pregnant, in an asexual, miraculous way.” In
what world is that believable?
The
struggle to believe is an age-old problem. It shows up over and over throughout
the Bible.
      Moses meets God at the burning bush, and
God promises to save Israel through Moses, but Moses tries to exercise an “opt
out”
      God promises deliverance through Gideon,
but Gideon has to give God a series of elaborate tests before he commits.
      Zechariah, father of John the Baptizer,
receives the announcement of John’s birth from an angel while he is worshiping
in the temple, but doesn’t believe it.
      King Ahaz is offered to pick a sign, any
sign, for Israel’s deliverance and he refuses outright.
      Joseph doesn’t believe Mary’s story, or
was too shocked and upset to allow her to tell the full story. At least he
didn’t want to make a fool of her. And fortunately, he trusted the word of the
angel.
The
two main characters in our stories today, Ahaz and Joseph, are both offered
signs. Both signs are of the birth of a child who is “Immanuel”, “God with us”.
One accepts, one rejects. Either way, the sign will be given, the deliverance
will be offered. But only one of the two receives the gift.
For
Ahaz, it was about more than struggling with disappointment and dashed
expectations. For Ahaz, it was also about his own image. “I’m not presumptive
before God.” For Ahaz, it was also about his relationship with God to that
point, which was pretty adversarial. When things got bad for him, he plundered
the temple of God and used the wealth to buy an alliance. He copied the worship
and altar of the Assyrians. Ahaz was about power. But he missed out on the gift
of God.
      Story:
Dad negotiating a grant with a school district superintendent. Folks who focus
on control miss out on the gift that only comes by faith, only comes through
trust.
Maybe
Charlie Brown was right after all. He never learns not to trust Lucy. But he
has learned to trust.
That’s
what sets Joseph apart from Ahaz. He is introduced as “a righteous man,”
something that the Scripture defines as living by faith (Habakkuk 2.4, Romans
1.17, Galatians 3.11, Hebrews 10.38). He’s learned to trust, despite the
disappointments that he has endured. He lives by faith, despite the dashed
hopes and expectations in his personal experience.

No
wonder the apostle Paul describes his calling as bringing “the obedience of
faith” to the Gentiles (Romans 1.5). Such obedience is a resounding “amen” to
God’s good news in Jesus “descended from David according to the flesh” and
“declared the Son of God with power by resurrection from the dead” (Romans
1.3-4).