12.24.15 Mark 1:1-15 Christmas Birth of a Kingdom Sermon Summary
In place of a story about the birth of Jesus, the Gospel of Mark begins with a story about the birth of a kingdom.
We are always aware that something isn’t right. Occasionally—recently more often than normal—the “not rightness” of the world becomes undeniably obvious:
- Assassinations committed out of ideology
- Families seeking refuge washing up on the beaches
- Friends dying sooner than they should
In these times, we long to hear that voice crying out in our wilderness, “Every valley shall be lifted up—every mountain made low; the crooked paths shall be made straight—and the rough places smooth.” (Isaiah 40:4)
We long, as God’s people have always longed, for a king to make all things right. We long for a kingdom where justice prevails, where children do not die of curable diseases while other children escape justice because they suffer “affluenza.”
We look around, and are tempted to believe—as so easily do, those who do not know God—that such a kingdom can come only through a king who exercises superior might. But we who know God are called to a different belief.
God’s Kingdom comes, not by might, not by power, not through the strength of horses and chariots, but by God’s Spirit—through the King who rides on a donkey.
This King, by the Spirit of God, will cause justice to roll down like water, by shaking through the economies of the wealthy. This King will remind us all that all good things come from God, and return to God, and that they do so through the good and faithful stewardship of people who belong to God—who are God’s children, who are beloved, and with whom God is well pleased.
Poverty will be no more in God’s kingdom, because ostentation will be no more. All will be satisfied, and so all will be counted rich. Even the land will rejoice, and the seas, and the skies, and the animals.
This is the Kingdom of God which slipped in amongst the kingdoms of this world, under cover of darkness 2000 years ago. It happened in a conquered land, to a socially marginalized people. Then and there, the Spirit gave rise to the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, through the birth of Jesus to Mary and Joseph.
This Jesus would become a different kind of David. He redefines monarchy and kingdom. He invites more than the religious faithful: He includes all the hopeful, all the mournful, all the needful—all those who have had their full of the empty promises of this world’s kingdoms.
John the Baptizer prepared us with a baptism of repentance—an invitation to realign, to redirect, to return to the ways of divine rule. He called us to put past sins behind us, to greet in our darkness the light of a new day, to live as beloved children of God—just as Jesus revealed we could.
Because the time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God has come near. Let us repent then, and believe the good news. Amen.
God of Creation, who spoke light into darkness, we gather on this dark night around that light of which the gospel writer John says came into the world with Jesus Christ, your Incarnate Word. We pray you will illumine our minds that we may understand enough of your will to faithfully walk in your ways. We ask that you will shed light upon the dark corners of our lives, that we may find your presence even there, and be bold to entrust to your care, those things we have kept hidden or preferred to forget.
Despite the birth of the Prince of Peace, our world is full of violence and discord. Within our hearts, and among the nations, defensiveness and selfishness compete with compassion and forbearance. From slight comments that are meant to cut the heart, to the blades of bloodthirsty men held to the necks of the faithful, we are desperate to experience your promised peace. Grant us faith to seek your peaceful ways, and to collaborate with your Spirit in the hard work of a just and lasting peace.
Despite the Bread of Heaven being laid in the manger of animals, there is yet spiritual and physical hunger in our world. We try to find our satisfaction in the achievements of technology, science, medicine, and philosophy. We accumulate more and more in an effort to fill lives devoid of lasting meaning. Grant us faith to receive your presence in the Spirit of Christ’s birth and resurrection in our hearts.
We ask your blessing upon all who are not able to worship with us this night. For those who are serving in the military and police, we offer thanks and pray for their safety. For those providing care for the sick and infirmed, we offer thanks and pray for their wisdom. For those ensuring our public safety and comfort, we offer thanks and pray for uneventful shifts. For whose darkness in mind, emotion, or spirit precludes the fellowship of the faithful in light, we ask you to send messengers of hope and comfort even as you did to the shepherds so many nights ago.