Sermon on December 05, 2021
KaB FKB by Volker Aßmann
“I want to give you a present. God – with freedom and healing!”
This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
Advent and Christmas are the times of many warm lights and candles – how I love them! In addition, delicious cookies and mulled wine. All things that do so well after the gloomy and wet and cold November. And that fits perfectly into the church year, which came to an end with Sundays that reminded of death, dying and transience.
The new church year begins with Advent: Arrival – HE is coming – it will be light and warm again, even if we have to wait a while for it. But Advent is the new beginning. Advent is longing and hope. Advent is the promise: it will be light again. God comes into our world and wants to change it, and He wants to change us. And yet many people experience Advent in the midst of the need, crisis and hopelessness and darkness of their lives. It is precisely there that it is so important that God comes in with His light and His hope. This year I was very touched by this picture and this sentence by Friedrich von Bodelschwingh:
“Advent and Christmas are like a keyhole through which a glow from home falls on our dark earth path.”
Friedrich von Bodelschwingh was born in 1831 and died in 1910. He was a Protestant theologian and pastor, and he has suffered a lot. Within 2 weeks his 4 children died of diphtheria. Later, he and his wife had 4 more children. He became the head of the “Nursing Home for Epileptics” in Bethel near Bielefeld, which was then named after him. His passion was helping these sick children and other people in dire need of help. Why did he do that? When he himself had more than enough personal suffering to cope with? “Advent and Christmas are like a keyhole through which a glow from home falls on our dark earth path.” Bodelschwingh knew that life here was marked by a lot of darkness, hardship and misery, by the way, much, much more than we experience today. Today, nobody dies of diphtheria because we are all vaccinated against it and benefit from the great advances in medicine. Bodelschwingh not only saw the darkness, he also saw the light that has shone through the keyhole into our darkness since Christmas. A light that awakens longing and hope for the home with God, which he knew as a Christian. Here lies the key to understanding deep longing within us.
God created us with a deep longing for a whole world in which we can find peace and justice, salvation and happiness. The most beautiful Christmas celebrations of our lives are only a small foretaste of what awaits us in God when we believe in Jesus Christ. They are like the bright light that falls through the keyhole into our lives today. And I invite you to look through this keyhole again and again into the promised new and perfect world of God. And I wish that today in particular to all those who are in mourning, to all sick people (including those suffering from corona). I especially greet you with my Advent verse from yesterday. Image for John 1,5: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not been able to extinguish it.” That is what is special about the Advent and Christmas light, on which it says: “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD – JESUS!” This light shines indelibly and always brighter because Jesus, God’s Son, is this light. This year’s motto for the Advent and Christmas services is: “I want to give you a present – God!“
Above all the stress of the search for the Christmas gifts for our loved ones, let’s not forget that: God wants to give us presents – HE has already given us presents, we just have to discover it, accept it, unpack it for ourselves and enjoy it. And in the church services in Advent and Christmas we want to look at people who met the Messiah, the Savior sent by God, the Son of God almost 2000 years ago, and in whose lives it became bright and warm and who have really had hope since then. And I pray that you will experience personally what it means: I want to give you – GOD.
Today, I am unwrapping the second present: … I want to give you – God – freedom and healing! Today it is about the encounter of a Samaritan woman with Jesus, the LIGHT OF THE WORLD, at Jacob’s fountain, in the middle of Samaria. Many are familiar with this story that we read in John 4.
Who were the Samaritans?
After the Assyrians had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel with the capital Samaria, they abducted many Israelites to Assyria and instead settled the country with foreigners (especially Assyrians) in order to secure peace (2 Kings 17:24). The mixed marriages with the backward Israelites (which God had once forbidden) had long since developed into a mixed population, who in the eyes of the Jews (in the southern kingdom) were “unclean” and despised. The “pure” Jews hated these mixed race, the Samaritans. They avoided traveling through Samaria at all costs. (Picture of Israel!) Jesus was on his way from the south, Judea, north, Galilee, and he did not care at all about the general Jewish convention: Never go to Samaria and avoid Samaritans! HE walks right through Samaria as if HE had known that HE would meet this woman there. Yes, I believe that HE knew about it and was looking for this special encounter. This is God’s story (also of Christmas) from the beginning: Who deserves that God meets and helps him? The Jews? We in the rich west? People with a different religion, the Muslims? Or those who believe nothing at all? The good ones? Who is good? “But even though the world was created by HIM, the world did not recognize HIM when HE came. HE came into the world that belongs to HIM, and His own people did not accept HIM. But to all those who accepted HIM and believed in his name, HE gave the right to become God’s children.” (John 1: 10-12) The message of Christmas is: Nobody is privileged and has a right to God’s goodness and have mercy, not the Jews, not the poor or rich or whoever, neither you nor me! Or to put it another way: Everyone has the chance of God’s goodness and mercy, because they are a pure gift that one can only receive without one’s own merit or achievement.
Who are the Samaritans in your life whom you disregard, despise and avoid?
It doesn’t have to be this contempt of the Jews towards the Samaritans! This often happens in a much more subtle way. How bright would this light shine and shine in this Advent and beyond if we live exactly that ?! God came for all people, and all people are invited to become God’s children. You just have to accept this gift of forgiveness through the child in the manger and the crucified one! Advent and Christmas, that means for us Christians: Open your eyes and open your hearts to the people whom God puts in your way and who are waiting for your love and God’s salvation!
A few years ago, Ulrike and I heard the following in a prayer and encouragement from Heiner Rust, who did not even know us personally: You will meet people who you do not yet know and of whom you have no idea. Be open to them and meet them Respect and open hearts and love, and bring them the good news of our loving God. He said something like that to us.
We didn’t know what to do with it at first, but we’ve had it in our hearts ever since. And at some point, looking back, we noticed: That was such a person, that is such a person. Presumably we did not perceive all of these people that way, but it is our wish to perceive more and more of them that way and to walk a piece (maybe even a long piece) of our life with them. And in the process, more and more thoughts of judging them blur and disappear. They don’t have to become like us, they don’t have to believe just as we do, but it is our longing that they get to know the light of the world, Jesus, with us.
In the hot midday sun, Jesus sat at this well that Jacob had once dug while his disciples went into the village to buy food. Jesus was probably not only tired but also thirsty. But as a Jew, to ask a woman, plus a Samaritan, to give HIM water, that was simply impossible.
“The woman was surprised, because otherwise the Jews want nothing to do with the Samaritans.” (4,9) “Jesus replied to her: ‘If you knew what gift God has in store for you, then you would be the one asking HIM and HE would give you living water.’ ‘But Lord, you have neither a rope nor a bucket,’ she replied, ‘and this well is very deep. Where are you going to get this living water from? Are you taller than our father Jacob, who left this well for us? How can you promise better water than he and his sons and his cattle had? Jesus replied: ‘When people have drunk this water, they will soon become thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I give him becomes a never-ending spring in him that flows incessantly into eternal life ‘Please, Lord,’ said the woman, ‘give me some of this water. Then I’ll never get thirsty again and won’t have to come here to draw water! ” (Joh 4,10-15)
By the way, we don’t read anything about whether the woman actually drew water from the well for the Messiah Jesus, because suddenly it was about much more than thirst, which can be temporarily quenched with water. It was now about the despised and rejected woman. Outcast and despised by the Jews and also by the people in their village. That’s why she always went to the fountain in the heat of noon, because she knew that then no one would be there, no one who despised her, no one at all. Jesus speaks to you without condemnation or contempt about the chaos of relationships in your life, about everything that was broken in your life.
After 5 broken marriages, she was now living with a 6th man, unmarried. Perhaps in the fear that this relationship too could break up. In this conversation with the Jewish man at the well, she discovered that HE was the Messiah for whom the Jews and apparently also she as a Samaritan (she speaks of her father Jacob) were waiting: “Then Jesus said to her: It is I who speak to you.” (4,26)
When the disciples / friends of Jesus came back from the village, they probably rubbed their eyes: What’s going on here, Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman? (4.27) The Samaritan woman leaves her jug by the well, runs into her village, where she encountered nothing but contempt and exclusion, and told everyone what she had experienced. And many Samaritans from this woman’s village began to believe in Jesus the Messiah. (4.39-42) We read nothing about moral statements from Jesus and about this broken woman. But from that day she was a different person, healed, full of hope and with a heart full of love for her fellow human beings: You should get to know this Messiah too and trust HIM and live a new life with HIM! (4.28-30) No, the encounter with Jesus is not sentimental, and it does not allow us to stay as we are. The encounter with Jesus always reveals our failure, our breakdown, our guilt and gives us forgiveness, love and a new beginning when we engage with this Savior and Savior. And you may know:
With God there is forgiveness for every guilt and HE loves to walk a good and healthy path with broken people. You can start over with HIM.
I WANT TO GIVE YOU A GIFT – GOD –
With freedom and healing!
Gifted with freedom:
Liberation and freedom from the arrogance of being better than others. Freedom from the mistaken belief that I deserve it myself, that God is gracious to me. Freedom from the lie of not being enough and good enough for God to love me. Freedom from the contempt of others because they are different from me and you. Gifted with healing: Healing from the lies of your own life that you believe and the lies of others about you. Healing from the inability to relate and the empty cry for recognition and love that seems to remain unanswered. Bestowed with deep trust: God gives you the right to be His child, now and forever, because you trust Jesus. Given with the hope and certainty of a home with God that awaits you: “Advent and Christmas are like a keyhole through which a glow from home falls on our dark earth path.”
Would you like to get to know Jesus Christ too?