December 10, 2017- The World Turned Upside Down
Scripture: Mark 1:1-8
A couple of weeks ago, Emily and I took a trip to Chicago to celebrate her birthday. Our plan was to have a nice dinner, tour the city, and see the megablockbuster musical Hamilton.
We love Hamilton. Since Emily received the album last year, we have listened to it over and over. It follows the life of the lesser-known founding father Alexander Hamilton, who was famous for setting up the Treasury and tragically dying in a duel.
What makes the musical so popular is the feeling of electricity that one feels when experiencing it. The songs are contagious and compel you to sing along; the characters are complex with virtues and flaws; the writing is witty. It is no wonder that what seems like everybody has picked up on this show and it continues to be sold out even after it left Broadway. People love it. They proclaim it. [Like I’m doing right now.]
Today’s sermon title comes from one of the songs in the show, when the British armymen ironically sing an English ballad as they march off in defeat – “The World Turn’d Upside Down.” The small colonies somehow beat the might empire out of sheer will and tenacity to achieve their independence, because people were excited by the message that they could rule themselves if they worked together.
Have you felt that feeling? Being so excited you just can’t help but talk about it?
One such story is the one we heard today from Mark’s gospel. A man was proclaiming that a savior was coming. For generations, others had talked about it and waited for it, but this guy thought it was happening any day now. His name was John, and he baptized people.
What about John’s telling made this message – the same one told for generations and held dear by the people – different? For one, he REALLY believed it. John left village society and went into the wilderness so that he would not be distracted by everyday life. He looked like a wild man, which today would be a strike against him, but then was just curious enough that people came to listen.
Secondly, he spoke with compassion. He believed this coming person was the messiah they were waiting for. He believed he was called by God to tell others. The savior was also his cousin, which would seal the deal for me. Nobody thinks their cousin will save the world unless they really believe it.
As people heard, they paid attention. This man Jesus seemed like the real deal, so they talked about him, and more began to show up and listen. He performed miracles; he taught with conviction; something about him pulled at the hearts of those who witnessed his ministry. They proclaimed his greatness, too.
This season of Advent compels us to find the excitement of the season. We do that well. We get excited about music and trees and lights. We get excited about presents and the warmth of showing appreciation for those we love. Even people who know little about Jesus share in our excitement and take part in the festivities.
It’s obvious many people believe in the values of Jesus – peace on earth, sharing love, merriment and gladness – so how do we connect them to Jesus so they believe?
We proclaim him. We put up our trees and lights, we decorate our homes, and then, we go out into the world and proclaim it through our actions and our words. We tell everyone that their savior is coming and we can do great things together if we all join in the message.
Not to stuff the message down others’ throats. No more wars on Starbucks. Believe it ourselves and be so overcome by the excitement and joy of the season that we can’t help but say “Merry Christmas” with a smile and mean it. People will want to know what joy you have found. That’s proclamation. And I, for one, enjoy talking about Jesus. You can have church baggage and still talk about Jesus. He’s that good.
What would Christmas be like if we added proclamation to it? What if we stopped doing the same old things that cause us anxiety around the holidays? What if we put our efforts into staying up late having deep conversations about our faith rather than forcing ourselves to drink an almost lethal amount of coffee? I’ve seen enough dads who use up all their Christmas patience putting together “some assembly required” toys and managing not putting a “ho-ho-hole” in the wall.
We have an opportunity to turn Christmas on its head by starting with the message: “He’s coming! The Savior is coming!” There are a lot of people in our community who see Christmas come and go every year and never hear the message of Christ.
I want to offer you the excitement of the story so you can proclaim it. We are waiting on the arrival of a savior who calls us to a better way of living. We are citizens of his kingdom, and more than that, we are treated as children of God.
At Christmas, we proclaim that we too are joining in the coming kingdom of God. God chose to send the Son, the Word that created the whole world, to be one of us. To have a body like us, to live a normal life like us, and to die like us. Then he changed the game, he turned the world upside down. He was raised from the dead. We will be too.
Our lives now have purpose – to make the world closer to God’s kingdom. We have a reason to get up. We have a reason to keep going. We can stare down evil and darkness because our savior is with us. We can be made whole through faith, and we can share that wholeness with others.
Go and be the people that turn the world upside. Proclaim the story of Jesus.