Sunday, 2 December ~ “Who Am I?”

Jeremiah 33:14-16                   Luke 21:25-36

Let us pray:  God of grace and glory: open our hearts and ears and minds … that we may hear and see You … that we may accept Your message in our hearts this day.  Amen.

STORY ~ “The Ninth Woman” (see attached)

Wonderful story in which this poor, unnamed ninth woman asks ONE basic question … a question asked that I hear expressed in THREE different ways:

Who am I ?

          WHO am I?

Who AM I?

This question ~ in all of its forms ~ is a question that I’m sure all of us have asked ourselves during our lives.  Let’s take a look at these questions.

Who am I ?  Basic statistics about ourselves … such as:

  • Name and address
  • Birth date and social security number
  • Perhaps marital status; children; family

IOW: the most basic information to establish who you are

WHO am I? ~ takes us to next level: sharing the highlights about jobs, hobbies, likes and dislikes … the info you might tell friends or new acquaintances …

  • excited to be new Grandmama in January
  • PastorANDArtist
  • Former handbells ringer / liturgical dancer
  • Love to singANDtalk ~ especially in long lines on Black Friday
  • Adventuresome cook ~ love to create new dishes
  • Can’t bake ~ failed ‘break & bake’ cookies BUT will accept gifts of homemade cookies!

Who AM I? ~ This question forces us to dig deep down inside of ourselves ~ to the thoughts & feelings we might not readily OR easily share with others.  EX: I am a:

  • Woman who learned from Grandmama importance of listening toANDsharing personal stories with others.
  • Woman who cries when animals die in movies … still trying to forgive Walt Disney for killing Old Yeller
  • Woman living w/degenerative disease & … have more metal parts than I can count! …AND periodically I HATE IT!
  • Woman who will fight for personal rights forALLpeople ~ having been rejected for jobs based on gender alone

TODAY = 1st Sunday of Advent.  And, our scriptures today are a little dark ~ especially in light of the fact that:

  • Malls have been decorated since 2 November
  • Hallmark Christmas Cards on sale before Halloween
  • Thanksgiving/Black Friday sales behind us

SO: it is only natural to want to jump to beautiful, light-filled stories of Christ’s birth

HOWEVER:  Our scriptures today caution us to slow down a bit … and catch our breath.

The Prophet, Jeremiah, tells us to WAIT!  Don’t rush it!!

  • Days are coming!
  • Promise of a Messiah will be fulfilled … a Messiah who will restore justice and equality in the world.

And our Gospel brings us the same message:

  • Be alert!  IOW: Stay awake and don’t miss this!
  • Coming of Son of Man = sign of redemption for immediate world and for our eternal lives.
  • SO: pay attention for the signs that theKingdom of God is becoming a reality

ALL of which sounds so far off!

  • Which: it may BE … or NOT!
  • We don’t know!  Only God does.

AND, I believe it is good for us to NOT know!

For us … on this 1st Sunday of Advent … it is sufficient & appropriate for us to live fully in each moment … to:

  • Take stock of Who YOU are as a beautiful creation of God … AND WHO you are below the surface ~ what makes you unique!
  • Take time to ponder the significance of the anticipated birth of God’s Son ~ so eagerly looked forward to each year ~ANDthe difference this event makes in our lives
  • Take time each day to remember the changes that the Messiah ~ our Saviour ~ brought into our world ANDtaught us to share … gifts such as:
    • HOPE to the down-trodden and forgotten
    • Renewed physical and emotional and spiritual HEALTH to ailing and afraid
    • EQUALITY for all genders, ages and traditions
    • FORGIVENESS for all past & present wrongs
    • PEACE to every man, woman and child around the globe

My friends: in the remaining weeks between today and Christmas Eve: may we find time each day to ponder, with awe, God’s incredible gift of Love with flesh on it.

May we find time each day to give thanks that the Messiah ~ the Anointed One ~ meets us in the messiness of life every day, offering us grace and hope.

And may we have the courage to ask ourselves … Who exactly AM I … deep down inside … because Jesus, my Messiah and Saviour, has come into my life.

Amen.

THE NINTH WOMAN

          In some things you have no choice.  You just have to do them whether you want to or not, regardless of whether you see much purpose in them.  It isn’t until afterward that you may wonder about them and about why things happened just that way to you.

Off in Rome, Caesar Augustus decided on a census, and we had to comply.  So it began.  It may have seemed a little thing to him, but to us, it was a major disruption.  There was a lot of talk, resentment.  But no one could do anything about it.  Everybody had to go to the place of their ancestors to be counted.  We went toBethlehem, Amos and I and our children ~ because that’s where his family was from.  The thing I couldn’t figure out was why we had to be counted.  Some said it was for taxes.  Since we had nothing, anyway, such a long hard trip seemed doubly ridiculous to us.  But we had to do; so we went.  And little Deborah was sick all the way; burning hot she was.  It is hard enough taking care of a family at home.  Traveling, it’s impossible.  But you do what you have to do.

As it turned out, the afternoon we finally got to a place where the Roman legionnaires were asking people the official questions and writing down the answers on long scrolls, I was the ninth woman.  I don’t know why I remember that.  The soldier asking questions called out for another to write down, “Amos of Godara, the fourteenth man on this day, with four male children, three female, and his wife, the ninth woman.”  And all the while they were joking among themselves, paying little attention to us, really.

It was hard and bare, a number like that ~ so simple and matter-of-fact and distant, somehow.  I remember shivering and I remember my feet hurting and Deborah being so hot … the ninth woman …

Afterward, when the man said that was all and we could go, there was no place we could stay.  Those who could afford it stayed in the inn.  Some had family inBethlehemwho could put them up.  We less fortunate ones, well, we did the best we could.  A man Amos met said some people were being allowed to stay out behind the inn in a cave where the animals were kept.  So we went.  It was out of the wind.  I remember the wind that night, and I recall hoping Deborah wouldn’t get even sicker.  We found some water for her, and we shared a little bread.  It was a bit crowded, with all the people and animals.

Then … over in a corner of the place, this woman started to groan and make sharp cries like a wounded animal.  I knew immediately what it was.  I felt sorry for her.  It wasn’t much of a place for giving birth.  But I knew I’d have to help, too, and that was irritating.  I was so tired.  Wasn’t Deborah’s being sick ENOUGH?  And the other kids crying and being so restless?  But, you do what you have to do.

The woman’s eyes were wide, frightened.  The pain seemed to surprise her.  It often does the first time.  Her husband didn’t know what to do, except to keep reassuring her.  Birth’s too much for most men to understand.  For most women, too, I suppose ~ but you have to take care of things first, then figure it out later, if you can.  Most men can’t do without answers before they try anything.

It took a while.  It wasn’t an easy birth.  It was good I was there to help.  Knowing how it was, I could tell her about it, and that seemed to calm her.  It told her to scream if she had to and bite her shawl ~ not her lip.  And I reminded her that the pain was helping the baby get out.

When he finally came, I cleaned him with a bit of crumpled straw, as you do a new-born animal.  The father gave me an old blanket he’d gotten somewhere.  I wrapped the baby and gave him to his mother.  She was exhausted.  And so was I, but I was glad I could help.

There’s nothing like seeing what happened between a mother and a baby in that first few minutes.  I’ve been there lots of times, helping in my littlevillageofGodara.  But never in a stable.  Yet, the strange thing is: I felt it that night, too … that powerful, special thing between a mother and a baby.

The woman looked up and asked me what my name was.  It told her, “Leah.”  And she said, “Leah, this is Jesus.”  I smiled.  It was the first time anyone had called me by name since we left home.  Not a number, a name.  It felt … good.  I touched her forehead, and Jesus’ cheek, and held her hand for a while, until she slept.

Deborah was still hot when I went back to my family.  I lay down with her and held her very close.  The children were all awake, but quiet in the dark.  Just their eyes moved.  They’d seen.  It was like they were struggling with a secret and didn’t know how to ask or tell it.  And I didn’t know how to tell them, either.

Some nights, like that one, the wind whispers, and it seems somehow like more than the wind.  And children are quiet at the end of the day.  Little things happen, and somehow they don’t seem so little.  But, it isn’t until afterward that you may wond3er about them and about why they happened just that way to you.

“Leah, this is Jesus.”

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