Sermon by: Robert Austell
This Psalm may seem a strange choice for a Christmas sermon, but it fits well as a companion to the Christmas story passages you’ve heard tonight. See, it begins from the perspective of all those born before Christ – expectant waiting.
I waited patiently for the Lord… (v. 1).
And it ends with the recognition that God is “my help and my deliverer” (v. 17).
Whether it was nearly 3000 years ago when this Psalm was written, 2000 years ago when God’s people were longing for a Messiah-Deliverer, or today, when we continue to need God’s help and salvation in so many ways, this Psalm taps into Christmas hope.
By Christmas hope, I mean the hope that God can and has reached into the darkness and conflict of this world to offer light and peace.
We talked about that yesterday in church (and the sermons are online if you want a replay). The gist of that message was that God invites us to “come and see” Jesus and to “go and tell” that news to others. We talked about what faith is – a combination of believing and acting on that belief, like the decision to sit in these chairs, step on an elevator, or fly in a plane.
You’ll find this same message in the heart of this Psalm, in verses 6-10. There we read “my ears you have opened” and “Behold, I come” (v. 6). That’s the “come and see” part. And a few verses later we read, “I have proclaimed glad tidings,” “I will not restrain my lips,” and “I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation.” Those phrases are the “go and tell” part of Christian faith.
Both “come and see” and “go and tell” are essential if we are to know and experience God acting in and through us.
Tonight I’d like to highlight one more part of that equation. It answers the question of “What happens between come-and-see and go-and-tell?” Or, what else is there besides trusting Jesus and sharing Jesus? It begins to answer the question of “What shall I bring?”
In Psalm 40, it falls in the very middle of these middle verses. It is verse 8, which reads:
I delight to do your will, O my God; your Law is within my heart.
David, who wrote this Psalm, recognizes that tithes and offerings are not sufficient. Coming to church, writing a check, or even reading the Bible are not what God desires most of us. Repayment for the gift of Jesus is incomprehensible, though sometimes we operate in that mode. What God desires is our heart-felt obedience – our love.
Doing God’s will and having God’s Law (the scripture) within our hearts is serving and loving God with all that are and all we have. I have pointed to wedding vows as a starting place to begin to understand this relationship with God. The Christian life begins with belief and trust as we “come and see.” It involves sharing and caring as we “go and tell.” But throughout, God invites us to a personal relationship of love with Him.
In the well-known poem and Christmas song, “In the Bleak Midwinter,” lyricist Christina Rossetti captures this reality:
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him — Give my heart.
This is also the theme of “The Little Drummer Boy,” which you will hear in just a moment. In it, a boy who considers himself poor, with no gift to offer Jesus, offers his one talent, his drumming, to Jesus.
This is not a spectator-sport church. I do not believe any church is supposed to be that. Christianity is a hands-on activity. If you want to explore how you might serve God in this place, please talk to me. The last thing church should be is watching other people be spiritual for you. Come, join in. If we’re not already doing something that will use your gifts or interests, we’ll start it. In just the last year, we’ve had people begin serving God by playing the drums, water-coloring, taking photographs, teaching yoga in a Christian context, doing landscaping, offering financial counseling, organizing a Girl Scout Daisy Troup, and many, many more. I’m serious about this! In fact, I dare you to show me that you have nothing to bring God.
I recognize that there are some here tonight who only know God at a distance. I recognize that there are some here who come to church often, but who may not understand what exactly God wants of you. I recognize that there are many who think, “I don’t have anything to offer God.”
Listen, this is God’s invitation to you, made through Jesus, God’s light and peace born into our world:
Come and see this Jesus; check him out; listen to Him; believe in Him.
His invitation is, “Come, follow me.” God delights to enter into a loving relationship with you, using your gifts, talents, and even your weaknesses to magnify the light of His name.
If you know Him and are following Him, go and tell! Live out loud! Lift up Christ to the world around you.
Ponder these things as you listen to the words of “The Little Drummer Boy.” Ask yourself the question, “What shall I bring?” Amen.