Monday, December 19, 2011

O Come O Come Emmanuel--but not. like. this.

Today, the 4th Sunday in Advent, could also been known as Mother’s Day. It’s a mother’s day in the Gospel, as we hear of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary, “Rejoice o highly favored, for God is with you. You shall bear a child and His name shall be Jesus, the chosen Son of God, most high.” It’s a mother’s day in our Psalm, and in our hymn of praise, as we hear Mary’s song, The Magnificat, “My soul proclaims your greatness oh God, and my Spirit rejoices in you. You have looked with love on your servant here, and blessed me all my life through.” Emmanuel, God with us, has come among us. It’s a mother’s day.
But it’s not a Halmark style mother’s day. It’s not the kind of mother’s day where preschool children gift their mothers with dirt caked flowers in plastic cups, decorated with glitter glue and markers. It’s not the kind of mother’s day where adult children gift their mothers with a triennial pilgrimage to church, dressed in freshly pressed Brooks Brothers shirts and neckties for good measure. It’s a mother’s day with a pregnant, unwed teenager living in a culture where unwed pregnancy was grounds for stoning the woman to death. It’s a mother day in a world in which the single most dangerous thing a woman would do in her lifetime was give birth. Where likely 1 in 9 women died in childbirth and 1 in 5 children didn’t live to see their first birthday. It’s a mother’s day where, among all the risks of motherhood, Mary says “Here I am, a servant of the Lord. I live to do your will.” It’s a mother’s day where Mary said “yes” to serving God, knowing this service would not come easy. It’s Emmanuel’s Mother’s Day-a messy, scary, unexpected, servant Mother’s Day. The WORLD’S kind of day—messy, scary and filled with God’s servants. Where the breath of life and the shadow of death are so close, they kiss as they are enveloped by Emmanuel.
Robin Lim, or “Mother Robin” as she is known, is an American born servant bringing an Emmanuel’s mother’s day to pregnant women living in Indonesia. Mother Robin has been a servant of the Lord to thousands of Indonesian women--many of whom, like Mary, are young poor and unmarried. Modern day Southeast Asian women have something else in common with Mary—3 out of 5 give birth without a skilled birth attendant on hand. It is estimated that around the world, one woman dies every minute of every day due to pregnancy complications. “I am a servant of my God, I live to do your will.” Mother Robin and her husband sold all they had and moved from their home in HI to Indonesia. She opened clinics, serving the poorest of the poor by providing free prenatal care, skill midwives and emergency services to women & children. Creating Emmanuel’s mother’s day by saving the lives of women & babies. She says “every baby's first breath on Earth should be one of peace and love. Every mother should be healthy and strong. Every birth should be safe and loving. But the world is not there yet.” “And until that day comes, I will live my life as a servant.”
The world is not there yet. And still, it is a mother’s day. It is Emmanuel’s mother’s day. Jesus was born as so many were born and so many are born. To young, poor mothers who lack the most basic of care. Emmanuel, God with us, entered into this kind of mother’s day. And knowing Emmanuel, God with us, was upon her, Mother Mary responded “here I am, a servant of the Lord, I live to do your will.” An unempowered, ill-equipped, and unprepared servant called to make Christ known to the world. (Build) Yet Mother Mary said “YES” to the call of a servant’s life. She said “YES” to making Christ known in a world that did not wish to know Him. She said “YES” to bringing forth Emmanuel, God with us, to a people who did not want HER or HER CHILD to be with THEM.
(BOLD CRESHENDO ) The people of God cry out:“O Come O come Emmanuel!” (PAUSE. QUIET) O Come. (PAUSE). But NOT. LIKE. THIS.
The world is not there yet. We still cry out “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” We still say “here I am, a servant of the Lord” But not. Like. This. “Not a mother’s day like this” “Not a servant life like THIS”. We long for the Hallmark Mother’s Day. (BUILD)We long for a neat and clean baby Jesus, that we can welcome into a tidy world. We long for THAT Emmanuel, THAT mother’s day, THAT world. Yet…(BUILD) when we SEE Emmanuel in the flesh as he is; when we SEE the kind of Emmanuel we have entering into the kind of world we live in, asking us to be the kind of servants he calls us to be, we say (QUIET)“But not. Like. This.”
Not like this, because an Emmanuel who comes among us in such a messy way forces us to acknowledge our messy world and our messy lives and our messy EMMANUEL. An Emmanuel’s mother’s day, with a baby born yesterday in Indonesia or a baby born 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem into a messy world reminds us that the world DESPIRATLEY NEEDS US to respond “HERE I AM, A SERVANT OF MY GOD. I LIVE TO DO YOUR WILL.” It reminds us that we are called to be servants of our God in a world that is so messy and so broken and so pained, that we do not have the OPTION of saying (QUIET)“But not. Like. This.”
So how will we respond? We have cried out “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” Emmanuel has come among us. Emmanuel has entered into our world fully, born as so many have been and are born—among the grazing cattle to unwed teenagers where the breath of life and the sting of death live together. How will we respond as a community and as individuals? How will we respond as people, LONGING for a Hallmark mother’s day while LIVING in an Emmanuel’s mother’s world? Will we dare to say: “I AM A SERVANT OF MY GOD I LIVE TO DO YOUR WILL. Just. Like. This?” Will we dare to welcome Emmanuel into a world Just. Like. This? Will we open our hearts, and minds, and our souls and our churches to be a people of God Just. Like. This? O Come O Come Emmanuel. Just. Like. This. AMEN

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