Adams United Methodist Church
Sulphur Springs United Methodist Church
Pastor Missy McCarthy
December 6, 2020 2nd Sunday of Advent Year B
Have you ever needed saving from something? We talk about Jesus being our savior but sometimes it is hard to understand what that means. What we are talking about is Jesus helping us kind of like this life vest. Without Jesus it would be really hard to keep our head above water for a long time. We would get tired and start to go under. We would hope for someone to come along and rescue us or to make it back to shore. With the life vest though we could keep floating for a long time. We could make better choices because we aren’t panicking, and we don’t have to try and do everything by ourselves. Jesus is a lot like this life vest he helps us to do this in life when things are hard and it feels like rough water we can pray to Jesus and it is like buckling up our life vest that we always have on. Jesus will help us, give us some space to make better choices and help us to think about things. Jesus will work with us as long as we don’t ignore him (you know the feeling like we are doing something wrong when we make a bad choice, and we shouldn’t do it). Jesus does this because he loves us and wants to help us. This week we are going to look for ways that we can love other people and help them like Jesus helps us. You could bake them brownies, send them a card, or a craft or take a minute and make a phone call so that when they are going through a rough time they know they aren’t alone. Let’s pray.
Have you ever just wanted to cry out to be saved? What did you want to be saved from? When we talk about Savior what does that mean? We hear Jesus came as our Savior so often, but what does it really mean? We see it in the scriptures at Christmas and we hear it in the hymns. We talk about it, but do we really know what it means?
What do we need saving from? What did savior mean then? What does it mean now? Are we even talking about the same thing anymore? I think this is part of the struggle with church – we don’t always talk the same language even among church folks. It makes it even harder to understand what exactly are we talking about?
When you think of saving usually for most of us we think of things like The Flash saving people from the train that is about to crash, or firefighters getting folks out of a burning building, or the doctor’s and nurses in the hospitals doing overtime to save someone’s life or working their tales off with the pandemic right now. For some folks in Jesus’ time this is part of what they meant by savior – they wanted someone to save them from the Romans. But as we hear in the book of Matthew, they were also looking for a savior for the people from their sins.
William Barclay explains that Jesus is the Geek form of Joshua, meaning Jehovah is Salvation. He goes on to explain the promise that David reminds us of in Psalm 130.8 “He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Joseph is being given the promise from the Holy Spirit not only that Jesus will rescue us from our sins, but that he is to be named as the one sent by God to do that. That leaves us with the question of what is sin? Over the years sin has come to mean so many things and we have kind of lost what it really means. I am always careful to make sure I explain it so you don’t end up making connections to things you may have heard, but aren’t really what is being talked about in scripture.
Sin means to miss the mark, to make a mistake or wander from the path. The path is the one laid out through scripture of what God had intended for us (Micah 6:8) to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God, to love God and one another (Matt22.36-40), to feed and clothe the hungry and naked (Matt 25:35-45). Athanasius says we are prone to wander from the path that was intended for us because we are made from death (earth/mud) so we tend to feel the pull off the path. That is what the entire story of the Garden of Eden is about – the tendency we have to want the things or to do the things that we shouldn’t - to feel the pull down the path that leads to our own destruction at times. I don’t know any person who can say they have never stumbled off the path – who have never made a mistake or choice they regrated (never been tempted by sloth, pride, wrath, gluttony, envy, greed, lust or avarice – extreme greed for material gain).
So, when we say Jesus is Savior, he comes to save us from this. It isn’t like we become Christians and suddenly we start making better life choices, but when the angel promises redemption to Joseph it wasn’t just for individuals, it was for the community of Israel. It was a promise that this baby was going to do something that helped bring the people back to the path that God had intended for them, to walk in justice, mercy, and righteousness. This was a promise for the entire community – not just individuals. A promise for one person was no good – that was self-serving, but a promise for the entire body, the entire community, a new way for everyone – that was a revolution. This child was going to turn things around for individuals, and community – to redeem them from sin and offer another way.
The thing about Jesus is that he does all that through love. I know usually love is not the second Sunday of Advent, but it seemed fitting to rearrange the order a bit this year, as we talked about Jesus as Savior. Jesus saves us through the mighty act of love. It is a love that changes us. We don’t get back on the path because of force, guilt or shame. We don’t just magical decide to jump on the path, or stay on due to some invisible cattle prod or dog fence – it is love. As Paul writes to the Ephesians, it is through God’s grace because of our faith that we have salvation that is God’s gift. It is not something possessed, or something to brag about or to flash before others. It is not something to go up to someone and test them on and brag that you have it - do they? It is an an accomplishment by God alone through Jesus Christ’s love for us. It is love that held Jesus to the cross – our hatred, insecurity, straying from the path put him on the cross, and it is love that kept him there – love for all of us individually and collectively. It was love for the Kingdom that is coming and yet to be, the possibility and the good that our lives will be that held him there. How much love can one body hold? Enough to hold him to a cross and so much that even death couldn’t keep him in the tomb.
You see, we still need a savior. We may not be facing an outward invasion, but we all struggle with some form of sin. We struggle with systemic sins within our society and nations in every country and organization – even the church. We wrestle with the meaning of life and who we are and why we are here. Paul reminds us that “we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.”(Eph. 2.10). Jesus gives us the power to be transformed, to be changed, to stay on the path for longer periods of time, and to be made different, to be made more like him. We are given the gift of being freed from the grip of sin with Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. Adam Hamilton reminds us that “Jesus saves us from sin, guilt, and shame. He rescues us from loveless, meaninglessness, and hopeless lives. And in the end, he delivers us from death. This is why we call him Savior.”
This week, I want you to look for the places where Jesus is Savior. Where is Jesus changing your life? What has Jesus done to make you a little different? What has Jesus’ love done to change who you are? How can you share that love with someone else who may need it? As Whitney Campbell Coe asked in my devotion this week “What would Love have me do in this moment?” Maybe that would be an especially good question to ask in the trying moments. Leave a message on Facebook, or you can reply all on email.