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Wandering and Wondering Scriptures: Romans 5: 1-8, Luke 2: 1-20 December 24, 2012 (6:30 and 9 p.m.) Rev.

Deborah Dail Denbigh Presbyterian Church Romans 5: 1-8 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because Gods love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous personthough perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Sermon: Back in 1933, John Jacob Niles wrote these words: I wonder as I wander out under the sky How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die For poor on'ry people like you and like I; I wonder as I wander out under the sky Christmas Eve is filled with two types of wonder for most of us. We wonder that is, we question, we ponder. We are also, if we allow ourselves, filled with wonder that is, awe . . . amazement on this glorious night.
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We question and we ponder the same question John Jacob Niles considered: How is that Jesus the Savior did come for to die for poor onry people like you and like I? There seems to be some question about what onry means in this song. I grew up hearing the word ornery a lot. My dad would say things like: What are you ornery children doing? Did John Jacob Niles mean ornery cantankerous, stubborn -- in essence, sinful or did the writer mean ordinary? Paul in the passage from Romans reminds us that we are indeed ornery people. He reminds us: But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. We are ornery and God knew that . . . God knows that. But that didnt stop God from loving humankind and sending his son, Jesus, to die for us. We are also ordinary. Its interesting that John Jacob Niles happened upon a young, impoverished, ordinary girl named Annie Morgan singing in Murphy, North Carolina. Her parents were traveling evangelists who had been asked to leave town. They didnt have gas money to leave. So, young Annie Morgan sang in exchange for a quarter per performance. Niles listened carefully and left with the basis for the song I Wonder as I Wander. (Wikipedia) Writer Peter Lawler asks: And why would (Jesus) choose to die for poor, ordinary people? Why are distinctions based on wealth, status, and intelligence of no importance to the Savior? (The Imaginative Conservative, Peter Lawler) Jesus came for all people. Though Jesus was God in the flesh, though Jesus was and is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, Jesus was born not in a palace but in a stable; he lived not in a place of privilege, but in a humble carpenters home; he was not a triumphant warrior king, but a suffering servant. Though he was extraordinary, he became ordinary for us people who are both ordinary and ornery. Some of us delude ourselves, thinking we really dont need a Savior. We see ourselves as neither ordinary nor ornery. Weve moved beyond being ordinary. Weve got things figured out. We are self-sufficient, we have houses, we have lots of stuff. We are extraordinary on our own. But the truth is that were in crucial ways
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more homeless and so more poor and ordinary or uncertain of our true significance than evereven if we have lots of money and cool stuff. (Lawler) And so we are prone to wander from one thing to another, in awe of nothing. We may wander from one relationship to another; we may wander from one church or even religion to another; we may wander from one purchase to another; we may wander from one frantic task or noteworthy achievement to another, one high to another . . . . all the while seeking significance, all the while forgetting that in the eyes of the Lord of the Universe, in the eyes of Jesus, we are already significant. We are valuable. We are precious. We are beloved. And all this is true not because of something we have done, something we own, a person or family to whom we are attached but because we are Gods children. We are simply loved. I wonder as I wander out under the sky How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die For poor on'ry people like you and like I; I wonder as I wander out under the sky Tonight, we do wonder we question and perhaps even doubt. We wonder why things are still so tough why there is suffering, why our world is still so broken even though Jesus has come and has died for ornery and ordinary humanity. Throughout the season of Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, we have been reminding ourselves that while Jesus has come, while Jesus is present to us even now, we are still awaiting his Second Advent, his Second Coming. We live in the in between time; what some have called the now and the not yet. We are in the waiting place. We are still longing for the healing that Jesus will bring to the whole earth when he comes again. As we wait, we want more of Jesus now, we worry, we grow weary and we waver at times in our faith and we wonder we question. We are challenged to know what to do as we wait. Paul boldly says: . . . we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces
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hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because Gods love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Paul does not answer the why of suffering, but he does offer us hope nonetheless a hope that does not disappoint us. Tonight we can choose to wander away from Jesus. We can wander because we dont believe ourselves to be ornery or ordinary because we dont believe ourselves to be in need of a Savior. We can choose to wander away from Jesus because he hasnt returned yet to make all things new, because we are suffering and we live in a world of suffering. We can choose to wander away from Jesus because were still wondering about many things and have many unanswered questions. I hope we wont make that choice. Instead tonight, it is my prayer that we will invite Jesus once again to guide our wandering hearts home to God. Jesus has, through his birth, death and resurrection, secured this access to God for us. It is my prayer that even amid our tensions and doubts our wondering and questioning that we might open our hearts to love tonight love so amazing, love so divine, the love of God shown to us in Jesus. Tonight may we allow ourselves to wonder to stand in awe that Jesus, the baby in the manger, came to die for us because of love. May we pause to stand in awe and bask in the love of Jesus, our Lord. Let us wonder even as we wander out under the sky. Tonight, may God lead our wandering hearts home.