We are all familiar with the saying that the only two things you can count on in life are death and taxes. But I think the reality is that the only thing we can REALLY count on happening in our lives is change. Change includes death. (I don’t, however, know about taxes.) Yet as much as that is true – that change is the only thing we can count on occurring in our lives, it is also the thing that is hardest for us humans to bear. We fight change, even when the changes are good changes. We don’t want to let go of what is familiar even when it isn’t comfortable.
But the bigger thing we have to remember is that God is in that change. It is God who is constantly doing a new thing. In today’s passages, God brings life to an aging Elizabeth. God brings Jesus to the young, unwed mother, Mary. Mary proclaims God is raising up the valleys, bringing low the mountains, raising up the oppressed, bringing down the rich and powerful. God is doing new things, big things, unexpected things, in these scriptures, but also all the time. Change is hard. Any kind of change is hard. I think about the changes Elizabeth and Mary faced, though, and they seem huge. Elizabeth caring for a new baby as an older mom. Of course she wanted the baby, but that did not mean it would be easy. I think about Mary, and the fears she had that Joseph might abandon her. Poor, young mother, caring for this new baby. And again, even though she welcomed the amazing gift of being Jesus’ mother, it doesn’t mean that change was easy. I saw this wonderful quote a few weeks ago…
The thing we can count on is that God is with us through all the changes. We are God’s beloved children and that means that the new things God is doing are for our good, for our wholeness, for us to be the most loving and God-filled people we can be.
Bob sent me the following story last week and I thought it was really appropriate for this morning.
>A seminary professor was vacationing with his wife in Gatlinburg, Tennessee . One morning, they were eating breakfast at a little restaurant, hoping to enjoy a quiet, family meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. The professor leaned over and whispered to his wife, “I hope he doesn't come over here.” But sure enough, the man did come over to their table. “Where are you folks from?” he asked in a friendly voice. “Oklahoma ,” they answered. “Great to have you here in Tennessee ,” the stranger said... “What do you do for a living?” “I teach at a seminary,” he replied.
“Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I've got a really great story for you. ” And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with the couple. The professor groaned and thought to himself, “Great.. Just what we need.... Another preacher story!”
The man started, “See that mountain over there?" he said, pointing out the restaurant window. Not far from the base of that mountain, there was a boy born to an unwed mother. He had a hard time growing up, because every place he went, he was always asked the same question, 'Hey boy, who's your daddy?' Whether he was at school, in the grocery store or drug store, people would ask the same question, 'Who's your daddy?' He would hide at recess and lunch time from other students. He would avoid going in to stores because that question hurt him so badly. When he was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to his church. He would always go in late and slip out early to avoid hearing the question, 'Who's your daddy?' But one day, the new preacher said the benediction so fast that he got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. Just about the time he got to the back door, the new preacher, not knowing anything about him, put his hand on his shoulder and asked him, 'Son, who's your daddy?' The whole church got deathly quiet. He could feel every eye in the church was looking at him. Now everyone would finally know the answer to the question, 'Who's your daddy?' This new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could give, said the following to that scared little boy. 'Wait a minute! I know who you are! I see the family resemblance now. You are a child of God.' With that he patted the boy on his shoulder and said, 'Boy, you've got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.' The boy smiled for the first time in a long time and walked out the door a changed person. He was never the same again. Whenever anybody asked him, 'Who's your Daddy?' he'd just tell them, 'I'm a Child of God.''' The distinguished gentleman got up from the table and said, “Isn't that a great story?” The professor responded that it really was a great story! As the man turned to leave, he said, “You know, if that new preacher hadn't told me that I was one of God's children, I probably never would have amounted to anything!” And he walked away. The seminary professor and his wife were stunned. He called the waitress over and asked her, "Do you know who that man was who just left that was sitting at our table?” The waitress grinned and said, “Of course. Everybody here knows him. That's Ben Hooper. He's governor of Tennessee!”
I don’t know if that story actually happened, but I know it is true, none the less. We are God’s children and that is an amazing inheritance to claim, something that can change our lives if we allow it. It doesn’t mean things will always be easy. But it does mean that through the changes, through the new things that come our way constantly, that God is there, will be there, continues to be there. God brings amazing wondrous things. And as we approach Christmas, we remember the most wondrous new thing of them all – God coming to be with us as one of us. That is a new thing worth celebrating this day and every day. Amen.