Sunday’s sermon: Prepare the Way: Nesting

Advent peace

Texts used – Isaiah 26:1-12 and Luke 1:68-79

  • I think that arguably one of the greatest beauties and coolest blessings of living in this area is the bald eagle population.
    • See so many of them around here → always a thrill, no matter where you happen to glimpse it
      • Soaring through the air
      • Feasting on latest catch
      • Perched serenely on a fence post or telephone pole
      • I have a friend who reminds me of just how unusual it is to be able to look out the window of your house or your car and see a bald eagle. She’s not from the Midwest. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest and lived in Colorado for many years after college and seminary, and every time she happens to catch sight of one – whether we’re walking, sitting having lunch, or driving – she is so enthusiastically in awe of what she’s seeing. Her reaction never ceases to remind me of what a truly special blessing our local bald eagle population is.
    • Coolest thing about bald eagle sighting around this time of year = being able to see nests → bald eagle nests[1] are …
      • Massive
        • Average = 4-5 ft diameter, 2-4 ft. deep
        • Largest (found in St. Petersburgh, FL) = 9.5 ft. diameter, 20 ft. deep, weighed almost 3 tons
        • Constantly growing → add 1-2 ft. of material every year
      • Collaborative → built by both males and females
      • Eclectic → building materials include …
        • Sticks, bones, antlers (woven into outer structure)
        • Grass and cornstalks (lining)
        • Soft materials like moss and downy feathers from adults (in the bowl)

eagles nest

  • Recap sermon series
    • Advent = time of preparation, getting ready for the coming of the Christ-child into our lives again, for the miraculous birth of God
    • Series = looking at different aspects of how we prepare ourselves for a new presence in our lives
      • Lots of different forms
        • New child (birth, adoption, fostering)
        • Extended house guest (relative, friend, exchange student, etc. moving in for a long period of time)
        • Aging parent/grandparent moving in
    • Last week: finding hope as we prepare ourselves by learning
    • This week: finding peace as we prepare ourselves by nesting
      • Urban dictionary definition: “Nesting is a ritual performed by pregnant women in ridding the house, the ‘nest,’ from anything potentially harmful to the soon to be born child.”[2]
        • Expanding for our purposes: Nesting is a ritual performed by anyone that involves settling in, organizing, and creating peace in anticipation of a new arrival.
          • This is what we strive for in our relationships with God and with one another as a congregation as we prepare for the new arrival of Christ again. So we’re going to look at our Scriptures and this idea of nesting in terms of those characteristics of the way eagles nest.
  • First, eagles’ nests are massive: big to begin with and constantly growing/being added to year by year
    • Friends, God is big. God is so big that we cannot even begin to wrap our minds around how truly all-encompassing, all-embracing, and all-inclusive God is. – Scriptures speak to this this morning
      • Is: My God, I trust you. Please don’t let me be put to shame! Don’t let my enemies rejoice over me! For that matter, don’t let anyone who hopes in you be put to shame; instead, let those who are treacherous without excuse be put to shame.[3]
      • Lk: [God] has come to help and has delivered [the] people. [God] has raised up a mighty savior for us in … David’s house, just as [God] said through the mouths of [the] holy prophets long ago. [God] has brought salvation from our enemies and from the power of all those who hate us. [God] has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and remembered [God’s] holy covenant, the solemn pledge [God] made to our ancestor Abraham.[4]
      • Only a massive God would be able to hear a prayer such as Isaiah’s – don’t let me be put to shame, don’t let my enemies win! – and be able to do something about it. Only a massive God would be able to do everything for which Zechariah is lifting up praise: deliver the people, raise up a savior, speak through prophets, bring salvation. And this is exactly what we see in God’s miraculous birth!
        • Despite God’s own already-established mightiness and majesty, God expanded
          • Expanded into humanity
          • Expanded salvation
          • God made room for us in the Kingdom. God made room for us in eternity. And so as we go through this season of Advent and make ourselves ready to receive that glorious Savior and that incredible gift again, we also need to make room.
            • Make room in our schedules
            • Make room in our holiday celebrations
            • Make room in our hearts
            • Make room for God to work and to move in powerful ways
            • Make room for other people within the ever-expanding, ever-astounding scope of the Kingdom of God
              • Those who have been cast out
              • Those who are having a hard time (financially? emotionally? even spiritually?)
              • Those with whom we disagree
  • Not an endeavor that can be done alone: eagles’ nests built together by both mates – choosing a territory, gathering materials, weaving them together → As we prepare ourselves for God’s miraculous birth this time of year, we do so not by ourselves but in collaboration with God and with one another.
    • Scriptures
      • Is: Make your ways known to me, LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth—teach it to me— because you are the God who saves me. … The LORD counsels those who honor him; he makes his covenant known to them.[5]
      • Lk: You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare [the] way.[6]
      • Both of these passages mention ways in which God works with us and in us and through us to accomplish great and mighty things in the world.
        • Is – talks about God teaching and guiding and counseling
        • Lk – Zechariah lifts up his own soon-to-be-born son (John the Baptist) as a prophet – a go-between for God and the people, someone to help God prepare the way → collaborative effort
    • When we are in the process of nesting – of readying things for a new arrival in our lives – we often engage in that preparation process with other people: a spouse, a family member, a friend.
      • Unconventional e.g. = graduation parties
        • Celebrate the collaborative effort of raising a child (invite all those people who have mattered in graduates life in one way or another)
        • Commemorating life/achievements child has had up to that point but also preparing for whatever lies ahead (college, job, military service, time of discernment)
        • Recognition of the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” → As we prepare for God’s miraculous birth, we prepare together. We gather together to worship, to pray, to engage in mission projects like [busy bag/adopting a few families] and goody bags for our seniors and homebound members. We gather together to decorate and to celebrate that God loved us so much that God chose to collaborate with us in the work of salvation, even to the point of taking on humanity itself in all its strangeness and frailty.
  • Beautiful thing about collaboration = all-inclusive: when eagles nest, they bring all sorts of elements into the nest (sticks, corn stalks, string, feathers, bones, antlers, moss, and any number of others things) – whatever they need to get the job done … and eclectic mix of materials to make the perfect nest → collaborating with God necessitates this type of work because, hallelujah!, we are all different
    • OT Scripture reading mentions God working with all kinds of people
      • Is: The LORD is good and does the right thing; [God] teaches sinners which way they should go. God guides the weak to justice, teaching them [the] way.[7] → We are all flawed in some way. We are imperfect. We struggle. We argue. We misunderstand. We fail. And yet God is good and does the right thing – in us and through us. God continues to prepare the way for Christ to come again through the work that we do, using all the materials that God has at hand: us. Humanity. God’s perfect imperfections.
        • Find the meaningful in the mundane
        • Find the worship in the work
        • Find the grace in the daily grind
        • As we prepare for God’s miraculous birth, we cannot forget that God is working through us, but also that God is trying to work through every other person that we meet in some way. We have to open our hearts and open our eyes to see that – to see that work, and to see their worth.
  • Here’s the funny thing about nesting when you’re preparing for a new arrival. It can be a daunting and busying task – decluttering and expanding, collaborating and eclectic gathering, finding places for things and tidying up. But in the midst of all that activity, we find peace. There is a certain peace of mind and peace of spirit that comes in the knowledge that the space is ready. Even if everything else about preparing for that new arrival is still up in the air, at least when he or she arrives, there will be a place – a physical place of comfort and security that has been made ready for him or her. → peace that comes as we prepare ourselves for the Christ-child
    • Lk:Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.[8] → As we make ready once again for the miraculous birth of God, as we nest and settle in and seek that place of security and comfort, may we indeed find that peace, and may we encourage others to do the same. Amen.

[1] from The National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN: http://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/eagle-nesting-young/.

[2] http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=nesting.

[3] Is 26:3-4.

[4] Lk 1:68-73.

[5] Is 26:4-5, 12-14.

[6] Lk 1:73-76.

[7] Is 26:8-9.

[8] Lk 1:78-79.

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