Rejecting Good News (Welcome to Our World #3, 2016-1218)


12/17-18/2016 Christ Mountain Top, Advent 4
Psalm 80.1-7, 17-19 (not used on Saturday)
Isaiah 7.10-16, advent wreath
      With Nativity Hymn IV of Charles Wesley, v 4
Matthew 1.18-25, kids
Romans 1.1-7, message

Welcome to our world
      In which obsessive religion is unworthy
      In which we marginalize the most vulnerable
      In which good news is so often rejected

Welcome to our world. The coming of Jesus …
      Invites those of us who think too highly of ourselves to break through the barriers and labels and welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us.
      Invites us to join him in going to the margins, in solidarity with the vulnerable, in waiting for and expecting justice for the oppressed.
      Invites us to unlearn our cynicism and control issues and learn to trust.

Welcome To Our World  Chris Rice
Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child


Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make yourself at home
Please make yourself at home


Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around you
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world
Copyright ©1995 Clumsy Fly Music.

We struggle to believe, to trust, in good things. Ever refused to accept a compliment? Ever refused to trust in a too-good-to-be-true offer (even a true one)? We protect ourselves from disappointment. We lower our expectations.
      So, when the prophet says, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (Isaiah 7.10), we reply like Ahaz. “I will not put the LORD to the test.” Good news at risk of rejection by the best of people, us included.

But we have been disappointed before. We’ve had our expectations dashed before.
      GEICO TV ad: Man reading paper, ignoring woman
            Honey, does this make me look fat?
            [Not hearing or looking] You betcha.
            In the time it takes you to pull out the sleeper sofa …
No wonder we struggle to believe. No wonder we reject outright the good news that is offered.
      A recruiter calls to let you know you are a great candidate for the job, but someone else was hired.
      Someone says “You’re beautiful” but we can’t hear it.
      The prophet says, “Ask for a sign” and we treat it like a trick question.
      Lucy holds the football … and Charlie Brown falls for it. Every time.
      The angel says, “Your fiancé really wasn’t unfaithful to you. God got her pregnant, in an asexual, miraculous way.” In what world is that believable?

The struggle to believe is an age-old problem. It shows up over and over throughout the Bible.
      Moses meets God at the burning bush, and God promises to save Israel through Moses, but Moses tries to exercise an “opt out”
      God promises deliverance through Gideon, but Gideon has to give God a series of elaborate tests before he commits.
      Zechariah, father of John the Baptizer, receives the announcement of John’s birth from an angel while he is worshiping in the temple, but doesn’t believe it.
      King Ahaz is offered to pick a sign, any sign, for Israel’s deliverance and he refuses outright.
      Joseph doesn’t believe Mary’s story, or was too shocked and upset to allow her to tell the full story. At least he didn’t want to make a fool of her. And fortunately, he trusted the word of the angel.

The two main characters in our stories today, Ahaz and Joseph, are both offered signs. Both signs are of the birth of a child who is “Immanuel”, “God with us”. One accepts, one rejects. Either way, the sign will be given, the deliverance will be offered. But only one of the two receives the gift.

For Ahaz, it was about more than struggling with disappointment and dashed expectations. For Ahaz, it was also about his own image. “I’m not presumptive before God.” For Ahaz, it was also about his relationship with God to that point, which was pretty adversarial. When things got bad for him, he plundered the temple of God and used the wealth to buy an alliance. He copied the worship and altar of the Assyrians. Ahaz was about power. But he missed out on the gift of God.
      Story: Dad negotiating a grant with a school district superintendent. Folks who focus on control miss out on the gift that only comes by faith, only comes through trust.

Maybe Charlie Brown was right after all. He never learns not to trust Lucy. But he has learned to trust.

That’s what sets Joseph apart from Ahaz. He is introduced as “a righteous man,” something that the Scripture defines as living by faith (Habakkuk 2.4, Romans 1.17, Galatians 3.11, Hebrews 10.38). He’s learned to trust, despite the disappointments that he has endured. He lives by faith, despite the dashed hopes and expectations in his personal experience.


No wonder the apostle Paul describes his calling as bringing “the obedience of faith” to the Gentiles (Romans 1.5). Such obedience is a resounding “amen” to God’s good news in Jesus “descended from David according to the flesh” and “declared the Son of God with power by resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1.3-4). 

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