Sunday Service 18th December
Bathsheba : Advent 4
Call to worship
Hymn 685: For everyone born
Time for all
Hymn 316: Love came down at Christmas
Reading: 2 Samuel 11: 1-11
Luke 1: 57-66 Kay
Hymn 305: In the bleak midwinter
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 303: It came upon the midnight clear
Welcome to our reflection for 18th of December, the fourth week of Advent.
We are looking at different people in Jesus’ family tree, these are the people that influenced the lives of each generation.
And this week we finish off this selection of women who were in Jesus’ family tree.
It is amazing that any woman got mentioned in the family tree as it was such a male dominated society.
And this week is a tough week, because we see how vulnerable that made women.
Well we will look at that after Kay gives us our prayer and reading for today.
Part of me feels I should be apologizing at this time.
In the good old days when Sunday Schools were packed with children we would have been having a nativity service and all the children would have been re-enacting some form of nativity. It would have been so light weight and so innocent and just what we need just before the stresses of Christmas.
Instead we are getting a whole dose of reality, and really tough reality at that.
We have three women who are pregnant.
Bathsheba, Mary and Elizabeth.
All of them are vulnerable in some way.
Elizabeth probably the least vulnerable.
Her husband is a man of faith, a priest called Zechariah. His one flaw is that he has lost his faith. He wanted children but felt the time had past. An angel comes to him to tell him that he will have a child, but he doesn’t believe the angel.
So the angel mutes him until the prophecy is fulfilled.
There is no doubt that Elizabeth’s voice would not have been heard if Zechariah wasn’t mute.
And even then when Elizabeth tells the people what the name of the baby is to be they still turn to Zechariah and ask him.
Even mute, Zechariah has more of a voice than Elizabeth.
Now you could say that that was just the culture that they lived by.
And no harm is really done.
But then we have Mary.
Mary has been told that she is pregnant.
And the main concern to Joseph is not the well being of Mary, not the wellbeing of the child to be; the wellbeing of possibly the most important child in history.
The most important thing for Joseph is how it will look to others that he is marrying someone who is tainted, what people will say for the rest of his life that he is bringing up someone else’s child.
But again, he isn’t actively abusing Mary, it is more neglect, indifference to the wellbeing of someone who he thinks has betrayed him.
But the truth is she is dependent on him, and he is not there.
His support could ensure she lives through the pregnancy; his rejection could see her being stoned to death.
The scary thing is that her life is in the hands of someone who might be ok to see her stoned to death if it keeps his reputation intact.
And then we have Bathsheba.
At a time when kings go to war, David has stayed at home.
His place is meant to be it the battle front with his troops, with the Ark of the Covenant.
And there is David, all alone.
Bathsheba believes that she is safe to bathe on her roof as no one on the ground floor can see her, and everyone in the palace above her is away to war, except David who should be sleeping.
But he sees her and sends a messenger to fetch her.
This is no seduction on Bathsheba’s part. She has been summoned by the king; a king who has power of life and death over all his subjects.
A king who has history of using women.
Michal, Saul’s daughter, who loved him. She was a way for David to have a legitimate claim to the throne. When she found out her father was going to kill him she warned him. Did David take her with him?
No. Because having her stay in the house would distract those watching the house long enough for him to escape.
He was happy to see her married off to someone else.
Then claimed her back when he became king so that the followers of Saul would believe that their family was still part of the kingship. But he deliberately never slept with her so that she couldn’t produce and heir of her own, depriving her of having children.
Abigail, Nabal’s wife. While on the run from Saul David took to doing some protection work for money. Basically he would go up to shepherds and tell them that he and his men would protect their master’s sheep for a small price. If they weren’t willing to pay the price then he couldn’t guarantee the sheep’s protection if something untoward would happen.
Nabal called his bluff and said that he didn’t need any protection.
At which point David went into a rage and took 400 men to kill the whole household. But Abigail found out and sent food, a lot of food, to appease David.
When Nabal found out the next day he had a stroke and later died.
Before Nabal’s body was in the grave David sent a proposal of marriage to Abigail.
How was she supposed to respond to that? When Nabal refused him David sent a troop of 400 armed men to kill the whole household. What other choice did she have than to accept? Which meant that David now had a huge area of land and all its resources to feed his militia.
So what could Bathsheba do?
If she refused him then he could just kill all her family as an act of revenge.
You could say that was unreasonable, but then look what he did to her husband to protect his reputation; her husband who had been faithful to her and loyal to the king.
None of that mattered to David.
The only thing that mattered to David...was David.
So why was Bathsheba put in this genealogy of Jesus?
What trait did she have, and those other women; Mary and Elizabeth have, that the writers of the family tree want to bestow on Jesus?
I think it was the hardest trait to hold onto, the most valuable trait to have, and that is to have faith; faith that God could use their situation, no matter how weak and vulnerable they felt, no matter how dire their situation, that God could use their situation for good, and they would seek out that good wherever it was.
They wouldn’t be destroyed by their situation,
they wouldn’t be beaten by their situation,
they would work within it,
believing that God was with them, and would help them,
and their situation would turn out for good.
If there ws ever a trait that would be needed at the cross of Christ, when everything looked dire, then it would be this one; the most important trait...
to still have faith when things couldn’t look any worse. To believe even in those dire times that God was still working in our lives for good.
And if there was ever a message that we needed to hear this year then it would be this one.
Things are tough, things are tough for so many people, but God has not deserted us, God has not deserted them, he is seeking the good of all.
And we need to patiently look and wait for opportunities to show God’s help to others, to see God’s help for us.
The temptation we have is that in times of stress we withdraw from life,
we hide from life,
we try to enclose ourselves with whatever we can to protect ourselves.
These women did the opposite, they acknowledged that life was hard, but they kept themselves open.
Open to God, open to others, believing that if they did then things would get better.
Bathsheba, Mary, Elizabeth; they have lived their lives, they took the risk of being open to God and to others, and powerless as their lives seemed, they go down in history as people of phenomenal significance.
Now it is our turn.
Our life may be uncertain, may be hard,
but are we going to hide from life, cut ourselves off from others, try to protect what we have,
or are we going to be open to God, to others, and trust that God will work through us and others to use our struggle for good?
Let us pray
We all feel powerless at times.
Governments make decisions
and funding is cut from this part or that part and our health care suffers, or our education suffers, or our transport routes suffer.
Governments make decisions
and official route for refugees are closed down, or new refugees are created because now we have war zones where there was once peace, or now support is withdrawn from countries and food there becomes scarce.
Government makes decisions
and support is withdrawn from the vulnerable, or heating becomes too expensive, or food prices become too high for us to afford.
We pray for those affected by the decisions of others.
But it is not just governments that make decisions.
The head of the house makes a decision and now we can’t go to see family at Christmas, or we can’t buy those presents for the children, or we become isolated fro friends, or we fear the repercussions if they feel threatened.
We pray for those affected by the decisions of others.
But it is also the decisions that we make.
The choices that we know will hurt others, but we don’t care.
The choices we make that are self serving at the expense of others.
The choices that we make to close our eyes and block our ears to the plight of others, because we just don’t want to be inconvenienced.
Help us to make the choice to listen to your words of hope.
That we are loved.
That you are with us.
That you can make our lives significant, no matter how weak or vulnerable we think our lives are.
That you can use our lives to be a blessing to others, as you are a blessing to us.
Help this be our faith.