Worship Teaching, December 19, 2009

The Visitation, Brother Eric, 1960’s
What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Fourth Saturday of Advent, Luke 1.39-55 and Mark 4.30-32
If you have experienced a pregnancy, you probably already know about the book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting.  If you are planning to get pregnant, this is pregnancy’s equivalent to the bible.  My wife, Robin, and I depended on it for the gestation of each of our three girls.
As Canton Adventist wrapped up the four-week season of Advent, we looked at the story of when Elizabeth–AARP member carrying John the Baptizer in her belatedly-fertile womb–visited Mary–unwed teen with a Christ-pooch in her tummy; and the song that Mary sung as a result of that meeting.  My presupposition was that for those who put their faith and hope in the promise of a coming Messiah, their experience is very similar to a woman going through the process of pregnancy.
So, here are a few things that I believe you can expect when you are expecting:
  1. The Work of God happening in your life is a result of God moving towards you.  Both Mary and Elizabeth offered no reason for God to choose them to be the bearers of the Messiah and his forerunner.  God chose them because he did.  God’s work in your life is the result of him choosing to enter into it.  You do not have to earn it, you do not need special credentials or a pedigree for it, and you do not need a certain level of morality in order for him to start his work.  He’s already started working in your life.  Which leads to point number two…
  2. The Work of God in your life starts long before you ever sense it and as it continues to grow, the growth will not always be detected.  If we did not have the benefit of modern medicine, it could take weeks or even months before a woman may be sure she is with child.  But the baby is in there.  It may be a clump of cells or a miniscule creature with what looks like a tail, but it is there.  You may have a hard time believing that God is doing anything in your life right now, but he is.  Jesus told a short parable in Mark 4.30-32 about the kingdom of God starting out like a mustard seed that can barely be seen, but ultimately turns into the largest thing in the garden.  And when a plant grows, you only see half of the growth–the part above ground.  But underground there is as much growth happening in the root system.  Sometimes you won’t see what God is doing because he’s working on your roots, not your branches and leaves.
  3. Once the Work of God has started, it is as good as completed.  Mary’s song, known as the Magnificat, is a very odd song.  Her lyrics say that God has already rescued his people, already brought down the powerful and lifted up the weak, already taken wealth away from the rich hordes and given it to the poor–all this just because she’s a few months pregnant.  So either she’s a little presumptious, a little delusional, or incredibly wise.  I’ll go with the latter.  Somehow this young girl understood that because God had begun a work in her life, it was guaranteed that his full deliverance would be carried out.  Paul, in Philippians 1.6, says, "He that began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus."  He also alludes to this in Romans 8 where he says that those God predestined he also justified, sanctified and glorified–all past tense even though parts of those are still in process or are to come when Messiah returns.  If you are wondering whether you have been saved, are being saved or will be saved, the answer is YES!
  4. The Work of God is always good news, but may not always be understood as such.  When Robin was pregnant, we experieced the joy of listening to the heartbeat, seeing the baby on ultrasound and learning its sex, and feeling her move around Robin’s tummy.  Those were fantastic times during the pregnancy,  But during the pregnancy she also suffered through three months of morning sickness, cramps, discomfort in sleeping, having to go to an entirely elastic-banded wardrobe and somehow push a new human being out of her body.  None of these things are enjoyable, to say the least, but they are all part of something so fantastic that she was willing to go through that process three times.  When God is working in your life, it will not always be warm and fuzzy.  Sometimes, it definitely is.  But other times, it is rough.  And sometimes the growth of God in your life happens in the midst of the most difficult situations you will ever face in life
  5. The Work of God will open your eyes to how he is at work in others.  When Elizabeth sees Mary, her baby John leaped in her womb, sensing the presence of Messiah.  In the picture above, the stained-glass artist shows John kneeling in his mom’s tummy as Jesus reaches out with his arms in Mary’s tum-tum.  A sign of God’s work in your life is that you start noticing him in more and more people from a wide variety of cultural, economic and religious backgrounds and it doesn’t confuse you, doesn’t make you question your own faith, but simply thrills you.  Messiah is working all over the place and our recognition of it is a testimony of how God is powerfully working in our own lives

As we come to Christmas, we celebrate a Messiah that has already come and look for a Messiah that is still to come.  We celebrate Jesus unleashing God’s kingdom the first time he was here and anxiously await it in its full-fledged glory.  I hope that you can also, in wonder, give thanks for the work of God that is already happening in your life which points to your ultimate salvation and glorification at Christ’s return

2 thoughts on “Worship Teaching, December 19, 2009

  1. I think the biggest thing I have noticed about what God does in the lives of those who embrace the Messiah is that He creates an inner desire to always improve things; it\’s like He\’s a source of constant positivity and hope. Instead of becoming overwhelmed and disheartened by what\’s wrong, God has helped me to see how things should be–how He intended them to be–and how they could be if we all do our part to bring reconciliation to this broken world. And I\’ve witnessed a close friend make some powerfully positive changes in her life that I believe have been possible because of God\’s work in her life. So if I had to pick one thing, I would say that God not only creates the desire in us to be able to improve ourselves and the lives of those around us, but also gives us the patience and hope to persevere to continually try to make things better.

  2. Carol Dearborn, via Facebook: I listened (again as I was at this live) but was unable to figure out how to comment on your blog so will comment here:) I many times have felt Massiah working in my life. Often I don\’t like the things I go through but sometimes even at the time and sometimes later and sometimes I will likely not understand til I get to Heaven I am thankfull that… See More the trials make me a stronger person. Of course I do feel Massiah at work in ways that are not trials but times when he is drawing me to him to get to know him better and improve my personal relationship with him.

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