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United Church of Christ

533 Route 28, Harwich Port, MA 02646 | Phone: 508-432-1668

Such a Time as This

Esther 4:12

Such a Time as This

January 1, 2017

Rev. Dr. Susan Cartmell

Pilgrim Congregational Church, Harwich Port


This week we begin a New Year and a new worship theme: Justice. Now if you are wondering about the segue between Merry Christmas and Justice and you don’t see the connection between the two, let me remind us about the true story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Jesus was born to a people who had been under the thumb of the mighty Roman Empire. The Jews had been a subservient people for over 400 years when Christ was born. Jesus came to a poor couple, resourceful in the ways of those who struggle – but sustained by their faith. This story of the birth of Jesus is told from the perspective of the underdog and that pushes us to consider questions of justice. Circumstances beyond their control rendered Jesus’ parents homeless and then refugees. When Mary decided to have this child, she spoke about equity and justice. God has looked with favor at the low status of his servant…God has scattered those with proud thought and arrogant inclinations. God has brought the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich empty away.

            The great theologian Howard Thurman said you cannot celebrate Christmas without considering the poor, the refugee, the lost.


When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.


One reason the story of Christ’s birth never grows old and fascinates people around the world in all times and human conditions is because we all yearn to make the rough places of this world plain and the crooked places straight. We thrill to see shepherds’ eyes were lifted from their humble place and the wealthy Wise Men brought to their knees.  There is a sense of hope for all humanity that God’s values mix up our hierarchies. God’s appearance on earth levels out the playing field.

         So we begin this New Year with one of the best stories about justice in the Bible. It takes place in the Persian Empire 450 years before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

It is a story written about Queen Esther to help Jewish people of faith live with hope and courage in times of uncertainty, and open hostility. It tells of someone who found her voice in a world where speaking up was not encouraged.


Link to The Story of Esther- A Skit

  I chose this story today because it is one of the great stories of human history about an underdog who saved her people. I also choose it because I think we need to remember that God has always needed humble people to speak up to right wrong, to stop tyrants, to speak for who have no voice.

As we close our 2016 surely it was a year to be confounded, shocked and humbled.  It was a year of tremendous surprises, from the British decision to leave the European Union to our own presidential election. It was a year of sadness and confusion as Syria’s agony convinced tens of thousands to leave home and stream across the European continent on foot and boat.

         So today let’s look to a queen from Persia who found her voice. Let’s pray and talk together about how to find our voices for the causes we care about.  Where does God need you to speak up?  Whose cause can you support? What wrongs can you address?  What difference can you make?

Let’s agree today that we won’t let the world make us feel isolated.  Esther did not turn the ship of state around alone. She had the support of others like Haman.

So here are my three points as we begin this new year:

1.     Your voice and my voice are needed. If God brought the Messiah to a remote place like Bethlehem, then no town or church is too remote to be discounted. We are all vital players in this story of God’s salvation. Today with internet who know but that God may have put us in this world for just such a time as this. Who know but that our voices may be exactly what God needs.

2.   You cannot change the world alone. We will need each other. We will need to encourage one another and stand by one another and hold one another and lift each other up - not once but regularly and again and again.

3.    Finally, God is with his people in moments just like this. These are the times when the Holy Spirit gets involved and will be with us.

Never doubt it.

Posted: Sunday January 1, 2017