Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sermon for second mid-week Advent service

                                                                                                            Mid-Advent 2
                                                                                                            2 Sam 11:1-27

            It reads like the script for an episode of a prime time television show like Revenge or Scandal.  A rich and powerful man looks out of his window and sees a beautiful woman bathing. The woman is the wife of an employee in his organization.  But the man isn’t going to let that stop him.  She is hot and he wants her.  So he uses his position and connections to seduce her, and have sex with her.
            But then, something happens that he does not expect.  He receives a message from the woman that says: “I’m pregnant.” So then, he begins to scheme - setting in motion various plans by which he can arrange a sexual union between the employee and the woman that will conceal what he has done.  When that fails, he arranges for a tragic “accident” in which the employee is killed.  And so, after the expected time of mourning has passed for the woman, he takes her as his own wife.
            Of course, it’s not a story line from some television show.  Instead, it’s an account in the Bible of the events that involved King David.  Now let’s be honest – there is a lot of wild stuff in the Bible – especially in the Old Testament.  God’s Word doesn’t pull any punches when it describes the ways that sin has impacted human lives and relationships.  The plan that Lot’s daughters carried out in relation to their father in Genesis chapter 19 is not exactly PG-13 reading.
            But this is not just some guy in biblical history.  If the pagan Moabites and Ammonites that surrounded Israel had their origin in an incestuous relationship, what’s the big deal? After all, they are the Moabites and Ammonites.  What else do you expect?
            Instead, this is king David. This is the one to whom God made the promise that the Messiah would descend from him.  And it’s not just that these terrible and sinful events involve David.  They also involve Bathsheba, the woman who became David’s wife and gave birth to Solomon. They involve the couple through whom the line of the Davidic kings was continued – in fact the first of the kings in Israel’s history who descended from David.
            That’s the truth that is included in the statement, “and David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah” which we find in the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel.  As I mentioned in the sermon last week, you don’t expect to find women listed in a biblical genealogy – a genealogy produced in the setting of first century Judaism.  And then this one is doubly strange.  First, we have a woman – a mother – mentioned.  And then second, we don’t even learn her name.  She is referred to as “the wife of Uriah.” 
            In two ways, the reference to Bathsheba stands out.  It’s unexpected.  And Matthew has included it in this way for that very reason. It is meant to catch our attention and teach us about the one announced in the first verse of the Gospel: “Jesus the Christ: the son of David, the son of Abraham.”
            Matthew is describing the line of descendants by which God kept his promise to Abraham and David.  He is describing the One who is the Christ – the One who is Israel’s Messiah and the savior of the whole world. And he alerts us to the fact that sins of adultery and murder were included in this descent.
            During Advent we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  We are preparing for Christmas.  The time leading up to Christmas is a joyous and wonderful time.  The recent bad weather cancelled school and almost all activities, and so many of us have had some unexpected free time for enjoying Christmas preparations. We enjoy the decorating, the baking, the gift buying and the Christmas music.  The lights on the houses are beautiful, especially when there is freshly fallen snow on the ground.
            The trappings of Christmas are so enjoyable, that it is easy to forget that Christmas exists because of one thing: sin.  This beautiful and wonderful time of the year exists because of the ugly, the painful and the horrible.  It exists because sin exits.
            Sin is what we find in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. It is found in the phrase: “and David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.”  In the next chapter of 2 Samuel we hear about how the prophet Nathan was sent to David in order to confront the king about his sin.  He told a parable about the terrible behavior of a man that sucked David into indignation against the sin, and then Nathan dropped the hammer: “You are the man!” And when it was done, David could say nothing other than, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
            In the aftermath of Nathan’s visit, the king went on to write Psalm 51. There he said, “Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”
            David asked God to forgive him.  He confessed, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”
            These are our words too. When we pause to reflect upon the role that God and his Means of Grace actually play in our life, we see our sin. When we consider the words that we use in talking about others, we see our sin.  When we take note of the lust that dwells in our heart and that we so often indulge in our minds, we see our sin.
            In the midst of our preparation for Christmas, the inclusion of the wife of Uriah – Bathsheba - in the genealogy of Jesus assures us that Christmas exists because of sin – your sin.  It is because of your sin that the Son of God was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. It is because of your sin that he went to the cross.
            Jesus said of his ministry, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross in order to receive God’s wrath against sin. He received the wrath of God against David and Bathsheba’s sin. He received the wrath of God against your sin. And by doing this – by dying on the cross and then rising from the dead – he has won forgiveness for all of their sins and all of your sins. He has given you the peace of knowing that your sin cannot separate you from God.  It cannot keep you dead.  It cannot prevent you from enjoying eternal life with the risen Lord – the Lord who descended from David, the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.

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