← back to list

    Dec 25, 2022

    What the World Needed

    What the World Needed

    Speaker: Rob McClellan

    Series: December 2022


    Today's Sermon


    First Reading
    Isaiah 52:7-10  

    7   How beautiful upon the mountains
              are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
         who brings good news,
              who announces salvation,
              who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
    8   Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
              together they sing for joy;
         for in plain sight they see
              the return of the LORD to Zion.
    9   Break forth together into singing,
              you ruins of Jerusalem;
         for the LORD has comforted his people,
              he has redeemed Jerusalem.
    10  The LORD has bared his holy arm
              before the eyes of all the nations;
         and all the ends of the earth shall see
              the salvation of our God.

    Second Reading
    Matthew 1:18-25

    18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

    23‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

       and they shall name him Emmanuel’,

    which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.


                The hymn with which we’ll close punctuates the refrain:

    God surprises earth with heaven,
    coming here on Christmas Day.[1]

     The hymn is titled, “Who Would Think That What Was Needed” and points to the way Jesus defied cultural expectations.  As scholars Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan put it in their book The First Christmas, the prevailing wisdom of the empire into which Jesus was born was that peace came through victory, and victory comes, of course, though a certain kind of might.[2]  Into that world God whispers, “Surprise” and delivers Jesus, who represented might in no traditional sense.  Jesus embodies an entirely different vision, peace through justice.  Just when we think there is no other way, there is no way forward, God breathes surprise into the world.  “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,” (Is. 52:7) said the prophet who foresaw there could be another way than the only what that was assumed.   

                The miraculous birth story gets scrutinized on all the wrong levels, trying to reconcile the biology while missing altogether the theology.  The couple has not yet coupled, and God says, “surprise” I want to be join the family. Mary says, “Surprise,” I’m going to birth a miracle.  Joseph says, “Surprise,” I’m not going to follow conventional wisdom and abandon you.

                Just when we think there is no way, God opens a way, a way is made, and the divine enters the world again.  My question for you, is will you join in surprising earth with heaven this year?



    [1]“Who Would Think That What Was Needed” by John L. Bell and Graham Maule.

    [2]Marcus J. Borg & John Dominic Crossan, The First Christmas:  What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Birth(New York:  HarperOne, 2007), 65.