December 21, 2014 – How beautiful are the feet

Isaiah 52:7-10

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.” 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. Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 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.

Luke 2:1-7

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke 2:8-20

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

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Advent 4/Christmas December 21, 2014 Ps 72, Luke 2:1-7, 8-20, Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful are the feet

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Hear again the word of the prophet Isaiah, from chapter 52, verse 7:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who bring good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Back when when she was younger and smaller, three-to-four- years old, our daughter Rohi loved wearing her mother’s shoes. In our household we take off our outdoor shoes when we come in the house, and put on flip-flops or slippers for indoors. In those days Rohi had at least three pairs of flip-flops for indoor use – designer flip-flops as I recall, each a stylish blend of cheerful colors, each fitting her small feet comfortably.

But Rohi always wanted to wear her mother Reah’s plain blue flip-flops – which were giant-sized on Rohi’s little feet. Whenever her mother couldn’t find her flip-flops – which happened pretty often – it was usually because Rohi had them on her feet.

Rohi wore her mother’s over-sized flip-flops with great enthusiasm. And it was easy to tell when she had mom’s shoes on – because they looked absurdly large, and sounded like snow-shoes on floor boards – as she trekked around the house – clomp, clomp, clomp!

And – like daughter, like father. That’s me too. Clomp, clomp, clomping. Looking and sounding often a bit ridiculous. As if I too am wearing giant snow-shoes, when I try to fit my small feet into the way-too-big-for-me gospel shoes.

Happy early Christmas, good news people! Your feet are looking good. Even my funny feet aren’t looking too bad this morning. And it’s the shoes that make our feet beautiful. In Ephesians (chapter 6), the apostle tells us – put on our gospel shoes. The NRSV translation says, “As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.” When we spread the good news of Jesus, our feet get beautiful.

St. Paul recycles Isaiah’s word – “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news” – in his letter to the Romans (10:15) – telling us these words are for us all. We’re all called to do like the shepherds of old, who first carried the good news to others. Called to proclaim the story of Jesus, God-with-us, till all people have seen the salvation of our God. In that same passage in Romans, Paul asks “how are they to believe in one of whom they’ve never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” Passing along the story of Jesus, generation to generation, is the work now of all God’s people…

And, if the gospel shoes sometimes seem way too big for us – don’t worry. As the angels say to the shepherds, “Don’t be afraid.” The job description is still ours to grow into. And in this story even God… is growing…

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The story of the birth of Jesus is the story of God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, squeezing into a human womb, and growing as a little baby…

In the birth of Jesus, God enters into human life, human culture, human community, bodily. A mystery that took a lot of pondering, scripture tells us, even for Mary, mother of Jesus (who, remember, spoke with a mighty angel face-to-face… and still had much to ponder…)

And God’s immensity born anew in our lives… takes a lot of pondering also. God’s eternal life and light still doesn’t fit neatly, easily into our small lives.

And the more we ponder the more we realize… Fitting God into our lives means we need to keep growing in God…

Even as God keeps trying to be growing in us.

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God– and the Word became flesh and lived among us… And the Word lives among us ever since. And in Jesus, born a child in a manger, surrounded by farm animals, visited first by farm workers, we see (as the letter to the Hebrews tells us) the reflection of God’s eternal, immeasurable, awesome glory – the exact imprint of God’s very being.

And if we feel inadequate as messengers of this immensely huge good news – don’t worry, and don’t be afraid. It’s right and good to acknowledge that we’re all of us still babes and infants in the gospel. Still wearing gospel shoes way too big for us.

Yet here’s God, still saying – “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messengers who announce peace, who bring good news, who announce salvation…”

And part of the good news is – that Jesus Christ is still being born in us – born anew among us – still taking on human flesh and living among us. Most of the time in ways…that we have to be looking and listening for… to notice…

I’ve been remembering singing Christmas carols, once in Plainfield Vermont, just before Christmas, walking around the village, singing to whomever we found home. When we went walking into the village food coop, even though our family shopped there, and people were usually friendly, I was still feeling just a little nervous about singing spiritual Christmas carols in a public place… not very sure how that would go over… in a town where not many ever went to church.

But as we started singing – everyone in the store broke into song with us… And looking around, we could see the truth – of how beautiful is the message of God’s good news…

There’s something in the Christmas story that has great power to break through darkness. Something in the story, especially when we sing and tell the story together, with simple faith, like children, that has power to communicate real peace and joy and saving grace…

And I’ve been remembering also the famous Christmas truce of World War I, exactly a hundred years ago this week. That truce wasn’t something planned or negotiated. It broke out spontaneously, just before Christmas, 1914. Beginning in more than one location, spreading along the front lines, that cold, wet, muddy winter. Christmas truce flags began to spring up here and there. One day soldiers began singing… Stille NachtSilent Night in German…. British soldiers sang back in English…Silent night, holy night.. Soon voices were blending together across the battle lines… And slowly, tentatively, men from each side emerged from muddy trenches. Soldiers began crossing over into No Man’s Land, exchanging Christmas greetings with each other, sharing small gifts… Photographs from home were shared. The dead were buried. Soccer games were organized. In some places the truce went on for weeks… Instead of bullets and bombs, songs and gifts and games and sharing of stories…Through the power of the Christmas story.

The truce (of course) didn’t last. Commanders eventually forced resumption of war. But powerful memories of that Christmas truce live on a century later – and still testify to the power of the birth we celebrate. Still bear witness also to the challenge in God’s word – to pray and work for the peace of Christ to come in fullness….And continue forever…

Most of our Christmas encounters are not as dramatic… Yet, if we’re looking and listening… Messengers with beautiful feet are still spreading the good news..

Last Tuesday night, a band of singers from our Bourne and Cataumet churches went caroling, singing to home-bound parishioners and at the Decatur House assisted living residence…And it was great to see all the smiles, see and hear people singing along with us… (Some barely mouthing the words, others belting them out robustly…)

This Wednesday morning we’ll be singing at Bourne Manor. All are invited to join us…Here’s another chance to witness… How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who bring good news…(and)

In our simple Christmas pageant (in Bourne/here) last week, led by children, we were singing the story together – all the kids, with help from parents and grandparents – and baby Evelyn Yewon Jung in the role of baby Jesus – all modeling the good news of new life among us…And how beautiful are the good news messengers, one and all… (and)

In our memorial service for Mabel Anderson last Wednesday, we had dozens of helpers, many people cooking and setting tables, waiting on others, then cleaning up after…Many more singing and praying and… All bearing witness to our shared identity as people of God together… How beautiful are the hands and feet and hearts of the messengers who bring good news…

In our wrap-and-tag giving to local children in need…In our purchasing of animals for Heifer Project… In our offerings for children in Haiti and families in need, globally and locally… How beautiful are the feet of the messengers who bring good news… (and again…)

In our Christmas Eve worship this week we’ll be proclaiming again the presence of Emmanuel, God-with-us. Sharing again the warmth of God’s beloved community, offering welcome to one and all… How beautiful are the feet of all the messengers who bring good news… Who announce peace and salvation…

In all these ways, and in many other ways, in our churches and in all God’s church, everywhere… Wherever, however God’s awesome grace in Jesus Christ is made known… How beautiful are the feet that bring good news… (And for sure) I don’t fully understand all the mystery of Christ’s incarnation. No one but God does. But I know it’s not my own natural feet that are beautiful. It’s only the gospel shoes we’re wearing that keeps the prophet saying – how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news

So whenever we’re feeling inadequate to be God’s messengers – remember – not to worry. Even if our shoes don’t fit – wear them. Because as little children know (and remind us all) – When we wear our gospel shoes with gladness – we will grow into them… And – How very beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of all the messengers who make peace – who bring good news – who announce salvation, who say to all the earth, “God rules.”

Good news! Glad tidings! Christ our Savior is born!

May the blessings of his birth fill every heart. Amen.