Sermon for Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 23, 2018
Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista, UCC
Text: Luke 1:39-45
By Rev. Elizabeth Aguilar
Friends, weve reached the fourth week of Advent which is Love. We focus today on the greatest Love of all, which is Gods love for human kind and all creation in sending us His Son, Jesus Christ. Of course, the temptation is to preach on the birth of Jesus as Christmas is around the corner and yet we arent quite there, yet.
To be honest the biggest challenge is to be able to focus on a particular part of the Christmas Story without focusing solely on Christs birth. But, for that, you will have to return tomorrow, for the Christmas Eve service. Instead, today we will indeed focus on Love but on one particular form of love as seen in the story of Mary and Elizabeth.
I found it interesting on reviewing the Christmas Story that inserted with in it, is this story of true friendship. We quickly get the sense that although they were cousins, that they were much more than cousins, they were true friends. We can imagine how easily these two cousin friends must have bonded over the fact that they were both pregnant over miraculous situations. One was advanced in age and one was a virgin. Those three months must have been full of wonder and expectation. Perhaps they prayed, laughed, worried, and hoped together. For that is what true friends do together.
One of the spiritual marks of discipleship according to Richard Foster and Darryl Tippens, two Biblical scholars and theologians, is spiritual friendship. You might recall that there are several marks of discipleship. They are: prayer, worship, service, giving (as in times, talent and treasures) and last but not least- there is spiritual friendship.
In Darryl Tippens Book, called, Pilgrim Heart– he states that Spiritual Friendship is probably the least obvious mark of discipleship. For all others are those that the Church teaches, promotes and lives out- we have prayer circles, prayer chains, we pray with and for each other in and out of worship. We certainly worship together, we promote and encourage giving of our time and treasures. We also promote and encourage serving others. But spiritual friendships is not that obvious. And yet, we do have examples of special friendships in scripture and todays example of Mary and Elizabeth is one of them.
Now what do spiritual friendship look like according to Biblical examples?
- they speak the truth in love. They share their opinions and insight in a way that will not hurt the other person but will respect the other person. That truth might be hard to share but it is shared in love- carefully and respectfully.
- Spiritual friends pray for and with one another. They present to God, the needs of that friend, asking God for Gods will in the life of the other friend. They dont ask God for what they think should happen but on what Gods best interest is for that person because we know that God loves our friend with a perfect love, which is not like our love b/c we ourselves are not perfect.
- Spiritual friends are of course, loyal and reliable. They will not share your secrets with others and break confidence. They wont use your faults to hurt you in some way.
- Michael Foss adds: it is in interpersonal caring friendships between committed disciples that real growth takes place. They pray for each other, encourage one another, share insights into scripture, and help one another reflect on the ways God is present and active in their lives.
So lets think about this some more- what would the world look like if we exercised healthy relationships and communication? There would be less wars, more sharing of resources, more peace and consequently, prosperity. In society there would be less loneliness, depression, suicides, less consumerism and obesity as we know that over-eating and over- spending are ways to avoid loneliness and boredom.
Then I also wonder- what would our church look like if we cultivated more spiritual friendships. Where mutual accountability, encouragement, play, and prayerful support were the norm?
As we look at Mary and Elizabeth- notice that they came from different areas and towns. They were of different ages and probably social backgrounds for Mary was very young and poor and Elizabeth would have been well known as the wife of a priest (Zachariah.) So they would not have had much in common except for the fact that they were both pregnant at the same time, both under very unusual circumstances.
So, you see, to have a good spiritual friend, you dont have to have everything in common with them. But you do have to love God and be willing to trust, pray, and share with each other.
This kind of love is agape love or filial love. It is true love that lasts and endures time. It isnt a shallow love that comes and goes according to ones mood. It is the kind of love the endures time and all circumstances.
My prayer is that we can grow in spiritual friendships here in our congregation. That you find a spiritual friend here- someone you can trust in, grow with, pray with, laugh with and share with.
Let us remember as we hold on to the rock that was given to you as you entered, that Jesus is the rock of our salvation! Like this rock, which says love on it, Gods love for us does not change. It isnt penetrable. It isnt changeable in any way. It is strong. It is everlasting. Amen.
Pilgrim Heart. Darryl Tippins. Leafwood Publishers.2006., Abeline, TX.
Power Surge: Six Marks of Discipleship for a Changing Church. Michael Foss. Augsburg Fortress Publishers. 2000., Minneapolis, MN.