- Chapel of St John the Divine
- December 23, 2018
- 8AM, 9:30AM
December 23, 2018 4th Sunday of Advent, C
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
Isn’t that lovely? Mary’s Song. It’s so familiar, so soothing, almost like a lullaby.
But it’s only soothing if we don’t really hear what Mary is singing.
It is easy to forget that Mary is a young, unmarried woman—a girl to us. She risks being stoned to death if she is caught in public. This is not a lullaby.
Luke gives us four songs at the beginning of his gospel—songs that set out the message he will be giving us through the rest of his book.
Mary’s Song; the song of Zechariah, father of John the Baptizer; the song of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest”; and the song of Simeon who knows that he can die content having seen Jesus, his savior.
These are songs of the fulfillment of God’s kingdom, the manifestation of God’s purposes, God’s ideas of life for us.
They may be familiar, they may make us feel good, but when we really hear them, they are not pretty.
Mary’s song turns everything upside down. I know that I have said that often about Jesus—I guess he comes by that naturally!
What is it about this Song of Mary that is so revolutionary?
First, think of all that Mary has been through before she sings these words.
She is a young woman, engaged to be married, when she encounters an angel who tells her that she will be pregnant and the baby will be holy, the Son of God.
This is a sentence of death for her, and yet she sings of God’s favor and mercy.
Mary obviously has a deep relationship with God based on trust and promise.
She is told that her baby will save God’s people (that’s what “Jesus” means); he will be the Son of the Most High; he will reign over the house of David; and his kingdom will not end.
Pretty heavy duty news—yet Mary says yes to this, and praises God.
Clearly she has more trust than the average person, more than I think I could find if I had that kind of message from God.
But Mary’s joy and thanks are not just for herself, even though that might be enough.
Mary’s joy and thanks are for God’s working in the world to bring about the kingdom for us to experience now.
We hear about this kingdom from the Prophet Micah, writing of one who will be ruler of Israel.
He will come not from one of the big, well-known cities, but from what Robert Capon calls “the least, last, lost, and littlest.” Micah says that because of this ruler God’s people will “live secure…and he shall be one of peace.”
God will bring about this healing for all who trust in him—not always healing as we know it, but healing that leads to deeper trust and love of God and brings hope and peace to our lives.
Mary says that it is already happening. It is not just future promises or hopes, it is reality.
As she sings, she introduces themes in Luke that Jesus will repeat and live over and over.
“He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”
This probably doesn’t sound like the world we live in. It sounds like the opposite of what we think is life.
Mary sings that God favors the lowly and hungry — these are not usually at the top of the celebrity list.
Mary sings that God casts down the mighty and sends the rich away empty.
If we are hungry and there is no food in the fridge, we probably find these promises a lie.
If we are rich and feel filled, we may also fail to find God’s truth, God’s kingdom in Mary’s song.
But the kingdom IS here and God’s truth, God’s promises of mercy and justice are reality.
And God invites us to do what we can to make sure that they are reality.
Mary could have said “NO WAY!’ when the angel told her of God’s plan. She could have walked away, gone home, married Joseph and lived a dull and “normal” life.
We, too, can say no to God and walk away.
But if we call ourselves Christian, “Christ followers” then we need to see where Jesus went.
We need to see what Jesus did, and do what we can, with God’s help, to follow.
Soup to the Docks is one way to help “fill the hungry with good things.”
Food baskets at holidays are another way,
But what about all the other days?
There are many other ways through which we can help to show God’s kingdom to the community and the world.
Are we doing things to bring about God’s mercy and justice through other agencies than the church?
Let’s all take a moment to consider the ways we help share God’s kingdom.
Sometimes it helps to see familiar things in a new light, get a new slant on what we think we know so well.
How about a song based on the Brady Bunch: “Here’s a story, of a girl named Mary.” It goes on in a lighthearted but respectful way, to tell Mary’s story—lightly and powerfully and fun.
Or updating of the Nutcracker called “Nutcracker Sweetie.” In this farcical production, Clara is an undocumented worker, the Sugar Plum Fairy is homeless, and the Snow Queen laments the melting ice caps.
It may not replace the original ballet, but it makes me think.
Whether we want an updated version or the original, Mary’s Song is meant to make us think, and to act.
Mary didn’t sing about God’s mercy and justice and Jesus didn’t live it so that we could say “ho hum.” Their lives, their examples, are calls to action for us to be kingdom people.
This is how we bring the promises of Advent and Christmas to the world and show that what seems to be upside down is really God-side up. God’s reality of mercy and justice, peace and healing, joy.
May we be the ones to show that Jesus Is the One the world has been waiting for.
May we turn our lives into Mary’s Song and, in all that we say and do, “proclaim the greatness of the Lord.”