Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 22, 2013
In museums, he is allowed to touch the art. He once brought a knife to a gunfight…just to even the odds. Mosquitoes refuse to bite him, purely out of respect. Who is this man? He’s the man in the TV commercials, who, although he doesn’t always drink beer, when he does, he prefers Dos Equis. He is the man who ran a marathon, because it was on the way. He is the man who once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels. He is the most interesting man in the world.
Of course, we don’t know anything else about this enigmatic silver fox who sells beer by the bushel for Dos Equis. He has no name, no story, no background. We only know that he’s got one sweet beard, and he does all these weird and whacky things to sell beer. Who is he? He is only the most interesting man in the world.
At the beginning of the world, he moved over the face of the waters. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, he protected them from the Egyptians. He is as calm as a dove and as relentless as an earthquake. Who is he? This is the Holy Spirit. He’s that weird and whacky Spirit of God that we can’t ever really figure out. The Holy Spirit is mysteriously not a man or a woman, but our language forces us into choosing him or her. We don’t know exactly who the Spirit is, but we know exactly what the Spirit does.
I think most of us have a fairly good grasp on who God the Father is. Yeah, sure, creator of the world. Almighty God on high. Got it. Then there’s God the Son, Jesus. Savior, Redeemer, Messiah. Born in a barn, died on a cross, rose from the tomb. Yep. Got it. And then the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit?
Every Sunday we say, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life…” The most interesting man in the world is whoever it is that sells beer for Dos Equis. The Holy Spirit is whoever it is that gives life, life with meaning, life with abundance. The Holy Spirit is that aspect of the divine that opens us up for a relationship with God.
Take this line from today’s gospel lesson: “Now the birth of the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” Time out. What? Has that ever confused you as much as it has confused me? What does that mean to “be with child from the Holy Spirit.” That’s pretty weird and whacky. But we know the end of the story. Mary gives birth to the child who is Jesus. In other words, Mary is the first person to ever have a relationship with Jesus. And it was the Holy Spirit that allowed that to happen. The same with us – the Holy Spirit creates the room inside of us for a relationship with Jesus. Pretty weird. Pretty whacky, to think that, in a way, we are pregnant with Jesus.
Looking over the whole stretch of history, and considering my own life, it’s always the Holy Spirit who is opening me up to a deeper relationship with Jesus.
When I was an impressionable sixteen year old, I picked up Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” Don’t ask me why, I was a weird kid. But as I was reading the “Canterbury Tales,” the weirdest, whackiest thing happened to me. I decided I wanted to be a priest. And I can only attribute that to Holy Spirit; that a fourteenth century poem would make room inside of me for Jesus to live. And that Jesus would call me to this life. But this vocation that I have has given life and meaning and abundance beyond words. It was a weird and whacky thing that the Holy Spirit told me to do, yet through it all, the Holy Spirit was the giver of life. It was the Holy Spirit, that opened me up for Jesus.
On October 12, 1971, thirteen Episcopalians from Spring, Texas met with Bishop Scott Field-Bailey and Bishop Milton Richardson. The Holy Spirit had created room for Jesus inside those thirteen Episcopalians, and they had a weird and whacky idea. They wanted to start an Episcopal church way out here in Spring. You know what the bishops said, what they said about starting Holy Comforter? No way! In Spring? Nobody lives out there! And yet the Spirit kept working inside those thirteen hearts, and those thirteen hearts gave birth to this church. And here we are, forty-two years later, with tens of thousands of people moving to our backyard. The Holy Spirit was with those thirteen Episcopalians. And because of them, we are receiving life and meaning and abundance. And because of their weird and whacky idea, we have this incredible relationship with Jesus because of this church.
The Holy Spirit is whoever it is that gives life. The Holy Spirit gave life in Mary, and that was a weird and whacky thing. But what happened through that, Jesus, is still giving life and meaning and abundance. Mary probably didn’t understand it. Joseph really didn’t understand it. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t always work here [touching head], but the Holy Spirit always works here [touching heart].
I am not asking you to sit down and ponder the mysteries of the Holy Trinity. I don’t want you to spend too much time thinking how God is one in three and three in one. Because before you figure it out up here [touching head] you have to figure it out right here [touching heart].
When you are stuck. When you need help. Before you make any big decision. Stop. And pray. Open yourself up to the Holy Spirit. Allow the Holy Spirit to give life inside of you. Enter into that relationship with the God who is already in relationship with himself.
And when you’ve prayed for the Holy Spirit to come into your life, get ready for some weird and whacky stuff. Get ready for virgins to become pregnant. Get ready for teenagers that want to become priests. Get ready for churches to come alive. Get ready to have a relationship with Jesus.
Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is whoever it is that gives you life and meaning and abundance. The Holy Spirit is whoever it is that opens up a space for Jesus to live in your heart. I don’t know how that works, just like I don’t know how Mary was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. But that’s not the point. The point is that the Holy Spirit wants to give you life. And meaning. And abundance.
He doesn’t always imitate birds, but when he does, he prefers to be a dove. He doesn’t always give children to virgins, but when he does, they are the Savior of the world. Who is this enigmatic force? It is the Holy Spirit. The Lord, the giver of life. It is the Holy Spirit, who is opening up your heart, to make room for Jesus.