The Lord is with you!

Doug Marlette, the gifted political cartoonist for the Atlanta Constitution, ran a very powerful cartoon a few years ago.  The image in the cartoon was one of a soup kitchen for the homeless during the holiday season.  In the soup kitchen, one could see the image of Jesus.  What was astounding about this picture was what Jesus was doing.  We’d probably expect to see Jesus as the powerful host, serving the homeless.  In Marlette’s picture, however, Jesus was not serving the homeless — he was one of the homeless.  Folk’s, that is the story of God’s Advent.  If you and I really want to see the movement of God in this world we need to be look into the faces of the poor and needy.  We need to see the homeless person on the street, the war refugee in Bosnia, and the hungry child in Somilia.  That’s were Jesus is . . . and he’s just waiting to be seen.

Now if God chose to enter this world from the underside of human history, that means that there is tremendous hope that we, too, can experience God’s presence.  That’s the other thing I want you to think about in relation to the surprising source of God’s Advent.  God approaches each of us.  Now I imagine that this may be a more radical concept for some of us to accept then the suggestion that we can see Christ in the face of the poor.  You see, most of us think too little of ourselves to believe that the great God of the universe really cares about us.  But the story of Christmas is that God has come to us.  Today, I want you to leave this church pondering the words of angel Gabriel to Mary:  “Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you.”

Think about that!  You and I, just like Mary, have been favored — blessed — by God’s grace!  “Greeting, favored one!  The Lord is with you.”  We are favored by God not because of who we are and what we’ve done, but rather because of who God is and what God chooses to do out of his mercy and grace.  Christmas is the story of Immanuel — God with us.

The Lord is with you.  Yes, you, as you go about the next few days running errands, baking pies, roasting turkeys, wrapping gifts, visiting friends.  You, as you stand before your class at school.  You, as you deliver the morning paper.  You, as you stand in line at the grocery store.  You, as you volunteer at the hospital.  You, as you gather with your friends between classes at school.

Folks, the Lord is with you.  Not up at the top, at the White house, at the Kremlin, with the presidents, premiers, prime ministers, or potentates, but with you.  The Lord is not removed from us on Cloud Nine.  He’s not busy hanging out with the rich and powerful. God is here! The Lord is with you.

This is the way this king does things, favoring ordinary people like Mary and Joseph in places like Nazareth, or right here.  InGod, all our definitions of power, all our opinions about who or what is important, all our expectations about how things are supposed to work — all of these things get rearranged, refocused, changed.  When an emissary of the Lord God shows up in a place like Nazareth, we need to be prepared to see Him anywhere, even here!

Greetings, favored one!  The Lord is with you!

— Bill Nieporte

publisher: Ballantine Books, published: 1982-07-12
ASIN: 0345305736
EAN: 9780345305732
sales rank: 883497
price: $54.95 (new), $1.05 (used)

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