December 17, 2018
The Advent 4C Sermon Starters include commentary and illustration ideas for Luke 1:39-45 (46-56) from the Lectionary Gospel; Micah 5:2-5a from the Old Testament Lectionary; Psalm 80:1-7 from the Lectionary Psalms; and Hebrews 10:5-10 from the Lectionary Epistle.
Related Reformed confession: Old Testament Lectionary: Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 66 (Lord’s Day 25)
Luke 1:39-45 (46-56)
Author: Scott Hoezee
We like musicals. Back in the day Hollywood turned out a great many films in this genre, though in recent years the movie musical has been pretty well restricted to Disney films like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. A recent exception was the exceptional La La Land that somehow managed to capture the power, drama, and beauty of old-time musicals from Hollywood’s heyday. It was a hit!
In that film—as in all musicals—people broke into song all over the place. The opening sequence alone was a tour de force as a long line of traffic-jam-bound drivers outside Los Angeles abandoned their cars and delivery trucks for an eye-popping music-and-dance extravaganza of an opening number. Of course, we would all readily admit that if in the break room at work one day one of our colleagues decided to tell a funny story about his daughter by singing a song about it—perhaps jumping up on the lunch table to do so–we’d all quietly begin exiting the room one by one! In recent years we’ve seen the “flash mob” phenomenon take off as pre-planned groups of people infiltrate places like Grand Central Station or a shopping mall and suddenly burst into song. Onlookers stop and stare, mouths agape, until they realize what’s up and then the cameras come out and the crowd gathers round and everyone has a good time.
Still, the reason even such flash mob musicals arrest people’s attention is because this is just not typical. It’s not even all that common in the Gospels, with the giant exception of the opening chapters of Luke where Luke all-but morphs into Andrew Lloyd Weber, having his characters—from Zechariah to a whole host of angels—bust out in song again and again and all over the place.
But no song is quite as startling as the one young Mary sings after meeting up with her pregnant older cousin Elizabeth. C.S. Lewis famously labeled this “a terrible song,” playing on the Latin word terribilis, which means “dreadful, frightful, fearsome.” The lyrics themselves shake the foundations of all we know—more on that in a moment—but the fact that they emanate from the larynx of such a young girl as Mary stuns our imagination on yet another level. Sometimes in TV dramas or in a movie a very young child will deliver a stunning indictment or offer a bone-chilling prophecy of some kind, and even were it the case that those same words would startle no matter who in the movie said them, it’s the spectacle of a little child uttering those ideas that makes you hold your breath as you watch. For a Halloween fright, we re-watched the harrowing movie The Shining recently in which a little boy becomes the herald of impending doom, repeating over and over in a chilling voice “Redrum, Redrum, Redrum” or “murder” spelled backwards. His being a child and yet saying such awful things added to the spectacle. And the terror.
In this part of Luke’s sprawling opening chapter, Mary reveals that the recent cosmic events in which she has been caught up have taught her a thing or two as to what God is up to and how God just generally operates. Mary is aware of her humble status in her time and culture. She was property as much as anything, belonging first to a father and then later to a husband (a husband who could divorce her at will in ways she herself could never initiate no matter what her circumstance). She didn’t belong to a famous family, hadn’t grown up in a big city, and had absolutely no prospects whatsoever to make a mark in the world or to ever be remembered beyond the next generation or so. Yet miraculously and startlingly, God had visited her with news so stunning, it would take at least the rest of her mortal days to understand it all.
But that reversal of circumstances, that lifting up of the lowly, that exaltation of the humble, told Mary that this is how God works. Maybe she remembered her Bible stories, remembered how it was Abram and Sarai that God picked out to begin the covenant, remembered how God in Genesis was forever choosing the younger child over the much more highly regarded older child, remembered stuttering Moses and vulnerable Ruth and the baby of the family named David. Perhaps she recalled how God had chosen Israel and not mighty Babylon with its hanging gardens nor impressive Egypt with its towering pyramids.
Perhaps she remembered all this and then connected all the dots to the child growing in her belly, a child so important that even her older cousin Elizabeth had just referred to him as “my Lord.” Mary was bearing Elizabeth’s Lord!! She was bearing the Savior of the nations!! Her. Little Mary. Mary the meek and mild.
And as she pondered all this and treasured all these things in her heart, she connected a few more dots to see that those who for now in this world fancy themselves as captains of industry and masters of the universe—those with enough money to cause others to kowtow to them in one spectacle after the next of sheer sycophancy—these allegedly rich and powerful folks, Mary now knew, would be on the losing side of history if at the end of the cosmic day their wealth and worldly power were their only comfort in life and in death. They might gain the whole world, Mary perhaps thought in anticipation of some words her own son would one day speak, but if in so doing they forfeited their own souls, they’d be sent packing, empty as a pocket and without hope.
“What happened to me” Mary as much as sang in her terrible song, “is a sign of what will happen to the whole universe one day.”
Mary could see it. Mary saw it with startling clarity. God loves the poor, favors the disenfranchised, has keen eyes to spy the invisible members of society. And in the kingdom of that God’s Son, all the wrongs that produced the perpetually poor and the perennially invisible would be righted. All the injustices under which people suffer now would be ironed out in a righteousness that would landscape the whole earth.
Mary could see it clear as day.
The Advent question that is so properly bracing for all of us as Christmas comes once again two days after this Fourth Sunday in Advent in 2018 is: “Do we still see this, too?”
It is interesting to note that Elizabeth is said to have called out to Mary “in a loud voice.” That is curious to see in that so far, most all of the action in Luke has been in the quiet shadows. Zechariah emerged from the Temple mute. When Elizabeth became pregnant, we are told she stayed in seclusion for five months. Mary likewise does not appear to have made any public pronouncements about what Gabriel had said to her—indeed, she likely did not dare to speak of it at all. In fact, she may have visited Elizabeth because she was the only person she could trust. But once Mary arrives, those things that had been done in secret are revealed in a public way. Elizabeth is not shy to proclaim God’s truth with a loud voice.
Maybe that’s where her boy John got his preaching voice from!
Scientists tell us that there is a most amazing, and thus-far inexplicable, phenomenon called “quantum entanglement.” If two particles of energy are kept in close proximity to each other for a long time, they form a relationship, a kind of bond that defies the imagination. The connection between these two particles is so strong that if you take one particle to a laboratory in Los Angeles and remove the other one to a lab in New York City, whatever you do to the particle in L.A. will instantly happen to the one in New York, too. Einstein called it “spooky.” It also defied his theory that nothing can travel faster than light. Somehow, however, once particles form this kind of bond, it cannot be severed no matter how great the distance between the two becomes.
A similar but opposite thing happened between Mary and Elizabeth. In this case, two separate people formed a relationship across a great distance—a relationship that finally drew them together. Yes, they were cousins to begin with, but you get the feeling that the difference in their ages meant they had never been all that close. You know how it goes at family get-togethers: the cousins already in college hang out together while the younger elementary school-age kids do the same and the two groups don’t mix and mingle much. Mary and Elizabeth also did not live terribly close by each other. But something remarkable—something filled with holy mystery—happened to both of these women and so despite their geographic and chronological distance from each other, these two formed a bond across that distance—a bond that would last the rest of their lives.
Author: Stan Mast
This is the quintessential Advent text, because it was so clearly fulfilled in the birth of Christ. In Matthew 2: 5, the chief priests and teachers of the law answer Herod’s frantic question about the birthplace of the long promised King of the Jews. “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written, ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people, Israel.’”
That New Testament interpretation makes Micah 5 the exclamation point of the long line of prophecy we’ve been tracing throughout the last several weeks. We began with the little thread of David’s genealogy in the story of Ruth from the time of the Judges. We continued with texts in I and II Samuel in which that thread became thicker and richer. Prophecies in Jeremiah, Malachi, and Zephaniah gave various twists on the theme of God’s coming action on behalf of (and sometimes against) God’s people. Now, two days before Christmas we have this crystal clear prediction about a ruler being born in the city of David who will shepherd God’s people into eternal peace and security.
It’s all so clear that we might miss the texture and flavor and deeper meaning of this classic Advent text, if we just read it by itself and ignore the context in which it was written. Its promise of a ruler who “will be their peace” was a welcome word for a people living in the midst of a most un-peaceful time. Micah lived between 750-686, during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah in Judah. During his lifetime Assyria was a constant threat, having attacked Israel and other surrounding nations. Israel lost most of its territory and then was over-run. Judah had to pay yearly tribute and when Judah revolted in 701, most of its territory was conquered, though Jerusalem was spared for the time being. In other words, Micah lived through several decades of international turmoil.
Micah says little about this total lack of homeland security, perhaps because he was a small town boy who knew a lot more about the social and economic conditions of the working class people in his hometown. Not only was there no Shalom on the international front, but there was no Shalom in the lives of the little people he knew so well. Those with power abused that power to take advantage of those without power. Micah’s indictment of Judah’s leaders reaches a peak in 3:11. “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the Lord and say, ‘Is not the Lord among us?’” But Micah declares what all the prophets knew all too well. A society without justice awaits the judgment of God.
That mixture of international warfare and internal social injustice is the background of this lovely Advent text, and that background gives bite to this text. Again and again, Micah prophecies judgment against Judah and the surrounding nations. Then, again and again he prophecies salvation for God’s people. As we read through the whole book we are whiplashed back forth from judgment to salvation, from humiliation to glory.
We see that in our little reading. Verse 1 of Micah 5 predicts that a siege around Jerusalem will result in the smiting of the king’s cheek with a rod. Verse 5b says, “When Assyria invades our land and marches through our fortresses….” In the midst of all the gloom and doom, we hear this prophecy about a coming ruler who will bring Shalom at last.
This is not exactly the message people want to hear on Christmas Eve eve, but then again maybe it is precisely the message we need to hear. In a world full of international turmoil and in a nation seething with economic and social inequities, where the problems seem beyond the solution of our leaders, we need to be reminded that God has a solution. We celebrate the Good News that the solution has already come and we anticipate the final solution when he comes again. This text calls us to joy and hope, to shalom that brings justice.
That joy and hope, that peace and justice are rooted in the little town of Bethlehem which has already loomed large in Israel’s history. It was the home town of Israel’s greatest king and, says Micah, it will be the birthplace of the greatest king in the world, “for his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.” That sounds most unlikely, given how insignificant Bethlehem was and how overwhelming the problems surrounding it were.
But, says God through Micah, this ruler will come “for me,” that is, for Yahweh himself. This ruler will be the representative or agent for Yahweh’s kingdom. So he will stand and shepherd his flock “in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh his God.”
Indeed, this ruler has all the marks of divinity himself, because his “origins are from of old, from ancient times.” “Ancient times” might be a reference to the three hundred year old prophecy of the eternal Davidic dynasty. Or, the Hebrew can also be read as “from the days of eternity,” which might point to the eternal origin of this ruler who will be born in the hick town of Bethlehem. Whatever we make of those specific words, God is clearly saying that this ruler will be up to the task of bringing security and peace to a troubled people.
In fact, says the very last phrase in our little prophecy, “he himself will be their peace.” This echoes the words of Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah, that God will send one who is “the Prince of Peace.” And it anticipates the words of the angel choir on Christmas night, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Paul began to explore what such peace might be when he said, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility…. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-16)
In other words, the ruler who is himself our peace will bring peace in multiple forms, which should not be surprising, since shalom always had multiple dimensions. Of course, Jesus brought peace with God (ala Romans 5). And he brought peace within (ala Philippians 4). And he brought peace between warring parties, like Jews and Gentiles, as in Ephesians 2. And that ought to bring peace into the domestic scene in Judah and in North America. Micah’s emphasis on social justice is part of the shalom brought by him who is our peace.
This is a complex and demanding and, at least for some, unwelcome message in this joyous holiday season. The absence of international peace casts doubt on the truth of Micah’s message. Of course, we could say, with Paul, that God has begun that international peace making mission by creating a church composed of people from all the warring tribes and nations. And that is true, praise God. But the church itself is the scene of so much internecine warfare that, once again, the reality casts doubt on the truth of Micah’s prophecy. Further, the church itself is often silent about, if not complicit in, the economic and social inequities against which Micah rails.
Most of your congregants will not want to hear about all this today. Let’s just celebrate Christmas, they will say, and leave all this business about justice and peace to another day. But we can do that only if we ignore this lovely Advent promise and its context. And that would rob us of hope in the face of all the messes in the world. They are so many and so difficult that we despair of solutions. That is precisely why we should preach on this text. It reminds us in no uncertain terms that God has sent a solution, and “he himself is their peace.” Though this good news does not negate our responsibility to live by Micah 6:8, it does remind us that the Ruler who came once is coming again to do for us and through us what we cannot do ourselves.
So have yourself a merry, peaceful, just Christmas.
The Guiding Light Mission, located just a block from my former church in downtown Grand Rapids, has a marvelous mission to the homeless, often mentally ill, and almost always alcohol and drug addicted street people who are our immediate neighbors. Each Christmas season they put out a special appeal for help in their mission. On billboards, street posters, newspaper ads, and TV promotions, one image is projected into the minds and hearts of Grand Rapidians. It’s a picture of a homeless man, unshaven, shaggy haired, dirty faced, hollow eyed, raggedly dressed, staring at us in desperation. That, says Micah 5, is what Christmas is about. That is a picture of Christmas. Not happy families gathered around a tree opening gifts, but the Prince of Peace bringing peace, security, compassion, and justice to a broken world. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” who has humbled himself for you. (Micah 6:8)
Author: Scott Hoezee
If you are going to choose a Psalm of Lament for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, you may as well include the most Adventy and hopeful part of the Psalm! But the RCL did not do that, choosing to break off the reading of Psalm 80 already at verse 7. Had they gone on to verse 17, they could have tucked in a verse about some “son of man” at God’s right hand whose choosing and sending would spell hope for all Israel. In any event, if you preach on this Psalm for Advent 4—and probably not too many will—keep the end of the Psalm in mind and loop it in somehow. Skipping so obvious a reference to Christ does not make a lot of sense.
Meanwhile, what we have here are plaintive words for God’s face to shine on Israel once more. This plea is plaintive indeed because it is clear that this poem was written from exile or at least from some sore and painful pre-exile period when Israel felt that far from shining on them in fulfillment of some Aaronic Benediction, the face of Yahweh was in fact turned away from them. As such, this is a pretty typical lament psalm. It is filled with dark and bitter imagery. It is written from the depths of sorrow.
All in all, in short, this does not feel terribly Christmas-like. Yet in 2018 this is the Psalm assigned for a scant 2 days before Christmas Day. Probably most preachers will opt for the alternative reading of Mary’s “Magnificat” (which I have woven into the Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Advent in Luke 1). But when you think about it—and as I point out in that other sermon starter—that is not a terribly cheery song either, at least not if you count yourself among the rich and powerful of the world. Because Mary will predict their utter humiliation, their being sent away quite literally empty-handed. The Magnificat is not a Lament Psalm but it’s got its share of dark prophecy in it for sure.
What both Psalm 80 and Luke 1 may have in common, though, is the idea that when God’s Great and Coming One arrives, it will spell the great reversal of all things. Power structures are going to be upended. The least likely—including perhaps in the context of Psalm 80 Israel itself—will be liberated and sent straight to the top of the heap. Absent the advent of God’s Chosen One, though, Israel will remain lost. The wrong people will stay in charge. Those who become rich by ill-gotten-gain will get off scot free and in fact increase their wealth.
Take away the one we now call the Messiah or the Christ, and things remain rather dim. Take away God’s decisive intervention in sending his Son to this world and it’s fully possible that Psalms of Lament would become all we had left to sing.
And maybe that right there is a point worth pondering. You don’t get “Joy to the World” without a Psalm 80-like song of “How long, O Lord, how long?” coming first. You don’t get “O Come, All Ye Faithful” without faithful people from previous generations crying out for mercy, for justice, for all the wrong things in life to be made right again. There is a sense in which Advent and soon Christmas are standing on the shoulders of—or is it more upon the crushed bodies of—all those who came before. We stand upon and with all those who paved the way for the advent of the Messiah by sticking with God even though there were so many times when there was no earthy good reason to do so.
It is too easy to forget as Christians—and perhaps never more so than at Christmas—that what we celebrate this season and at all times is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. In recent centuries there has been all kinds of loopy premillennial and other forms of theology that have so thoroughly messed up a proper view of Israel—conflating the current-day secular state with God’s true Israel, which is actually now the Church—that in many Christian circles we just don’t talk about Israel much at all. Period. We sort of re-set the biblical clock to Jesus’ birth and include only Christians in the picture from then on out. Israel is a footnote. We don’t even preach much from the Old Testament anymore.
But it’s not true. That we are all Israel now does not for one millisecond vitiate the vital importance of Israel of old, of the Jewish people into whom Jesus himself was born. These are our mothers and fathers in the faith, the forerunners to all that we now know and believe. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. That biblical and historical continuity is something for which to be profoundly grateful at Advent and always.
And yes, that history has times of grave failure on the part of Israel (even as the New Israel of the Church has had, to say the least, its shares of ups and downs too). And so the sense of God’s anger smoldering against his people, the sense that God had to DO something to reverse the fortunes of his people due to their sin: that is all part of our history too.
If God’s face does indeed now shine on us in this Advent Season, it is because God remained faithful to his promises to Israel that never would he abandon them. God’s face in Jesus shines on us now because it shined on Israel again and again. So if it seems odd to read an old Psalm of Lament on the very cusp of Christmas Day, perhaps it is less strange than we think. The need for God to restore us despite our sinfulness is also the reason for the season. That was Old Israel’s story and it is the New Israel’s story right up to this present moment.
“Restore us, Lord God Almighty, make your face shine on us that we may be saved.” He did. He has. He does. Thanks be to God!
In a speech he once gave at Calvin College’s “Festival of Faith & Writing,” the Nobel Prize winning author Elie Wiesel talked about Psalms of Lament. He noted that the apparent courage and chutzpah it takes to yell to God and complain to God is so typical of the Jewish mentality and spirituality. A Jew, Wiesel noted, can be for God, with God, delighted in God, angry with God, against God but the one thing that can never be true for a Jew is to be with without God.
Author: Doug Bratt
What on earth is this whole Christmas business about? Why is it worth all the effort so many people put into celebrating it? To answer that, not just the Church but also the world needs to know just why Jesus came to be not only born in Bethlehem, but also to grow up to live, die and rise again for his adopted brothers and sisters.
Yet as my colleague Stan Mast to whose December 14, 2014 Sermon Starter I owe many ideas for this starter points out, Hebrews 5:5-10 may seem like a rather odd place to turn for answers to questions about Jesus’ birth and Christmas. After all, the book of Hebrews in general and its chapter 10 in particular seems, with their heavy sacrificial emphasis, more oriented toward Good Friday.
Yet as Mast also notes, careful readers will notice that the Epistolary Lesson the Lectionary appoints for this Sunday speaks not once but three times of Jesus’ coming. “When Jesus came into the world, he said,” according to verse 5, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire’.” Verses 7 and 9 then go on to quote Jesus as saying, “I have come to do your will, O God.”
As Thomas J. Long to whose excellent commentary on Hebrews (John Knox Press: 1997) I’m also indebted for much of this Starter notes, law-based religion invites people to come again and again to God with a guilty conscience. So we try to shrink the guilt we feel by reminding God of all the sacrifices we’ve made on God and God’s church’s behalf.
We say things like, “God, didn’t I sacrifice my time to serve as an elder or on the deacon board? Didn’t I give up some of my precious time to visit that aging saint in the nursing home? Didn’t I risk sacrificing my career and reputation by standing up for that slandered co-worker? Don’t you see, God, how much I’ve given up for you?”
Yet as Long notes, while we repeatedly offer God those and similar things, they’re never enough. All of our sacrifices aren’t adequate to satisfy God’s demands. So we do things like leave church each Sunday feeling guilty that we haven’t given up enough to please God. We also resolve to return next week with another “basketful” of sacrifices. Or we decide to just stay away altogether.
Add to all that the frantic busyness of our Christmas celebrations and preparations for them, and it’s enough to make the most devout Christian exhausted on this Christmas Eve eve. At this time of the year many of us don’t just think we need to make sacrifices to make God happy. Now many of us also feel like we have to make sacrifices to make our family members and friends, bosses and co-workers happy. Merry Christmas, indeed!
Hebrews 10:5-10 is gospel for the deeply guilty and frantically busy. It frees us to shout, “Merry Christmas!” It announces, after all, the great news that God has pulled the plug on our treadmill of sacrifices. This week’s Lectionary Epistle announces, “When Christ came into the world, he said [to God], ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, “Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God”’” (5-7).
Why do Christians celebrate Christmas with such deep joy? Why did Jesus come not only to Bethlehem, but also to Calvary, Israel and the world? Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves – render obsolete the treadmill of sacrifices. Jesus came to make us acceptable to God. Jesus came to make us “holy” (10).
We might even say that Jesus very first words weren’t “Goo-goo, gaga” or “Mommy!” As Mast notes, they were, instead, probably figuratively rather than literally, “I have come to do your will, O God” (7b, 9). So while Hebrews mysteriously insists Jesus somehow “learned obedience from what he suffered (5:8), our text also insists that Jesus’ mission right from the get-go, beginning in Bethlehem, was to do God’s will. Even though he may have somehow grown in his understanding of that will, as Michael Joseph Brown points out, right from the moment of incarnation Jesus was completely committed to carrying out God’s will.
This, however, as Edward Pillar notes, stretches some popular conceptions of just why Jesus came. We, after all, sometimes shrink his saving work to his atoning death on the cross, with perhaps a bit of resurrection on the side. Hebrews 10 at least suggests that Jesus also came to live as well as die and rise from the dead for his adopted brothers and sisters.
While Jesus was tempted and tested in every way that we are, he remained perfectly obedient and faithful. So when he came to Bethlehem to begin to do God’s will, he did it perfectly enough for all of us. As a result, the Hebrews’ Preacher can sing in verse 10, “By [God’s] will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Because Jesus “came” at Bethlehem to offer himself to God, when God looks at us God no longer sees just rebellious children. God also sees those whom God has declared “holy,” as acceptable and pleasing to God because of Jesus’ perfect doing of God’s will.
So those who proclaim Hebrews 5:5-10 can announce to God’s deeply beloved adopted sons and daughters, “I tell you: in the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.” And because Jesus came to do God’s will, those who hear this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson as well as those who preach and teach it can together humbly, gratefully and joyfully shout in response, “Thanks be to God!”
Yet Jesus’ coming to replace all of our sacrifices with doing God’s will also frees us, in one sense, to offer God types of sacrifices. We no longer offer them to somehow please or satisfy God. Yet God’s adopted sons and daughters offer things like offer “our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1).
God’s children offer our whole selves to God as the among the very best ways of saying thanks to God for Jesus’ having done God’s will perfectly so that we might have life. We offer God our words, actions and even thoughts, not as part of our “daily run” on the treadmill that is our attempt to please God, but to show our gratitude for what Jesus has done, does and will do.
Whenever I hear Jesus say, “I have come to do your will, O God,” I think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. He addressed it to sanitation workers and others who were continuing to protest the unjust treatment of those workers.
Near the end of his speech, Dr. King said, “I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
“And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life—longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will (italics added). And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land.
“I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Of course, there was only one Messiah – and Dr. King wasn’t it. But he too, with Jesus Christ, wanted to do God’s will. What’s more, King was willing to join Christ in dying in pursuit of that goal.