And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”56And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
My apologies to those of you online pilgrims who looked for the blog last week but found the old entry. We had our annual Christmas Cantata last week at Cherokee Springs UMC and so I didn’t post knowing there wouldn’t be a sermon. Nonetheless, the scripture continued with the screaming voice in the wilderness John the Baptist calling attention to the coming of God. It is a good transition to this week and allows us to examine the fullness of the Advent story through 3 weeks.
The focus thus far has been on preparation for the coming of the Holy One into the world. Either through Mark’s call to be ready at all times or the desert prophet’s calls to repentance, we are being called to prepare. And how do we prepare? By doing the work of God in the world. How do we best celebrate the incarnation of the Eternal Word and honor its world-altering implications? We honor those whom God honors more than 600 times in scripture; the poor, marginalized, the widows, orphans, those to whom injustice has been done, ect…
This is the essence of Advent. We aren’t just celebrating the coming of the Christ child because it’s a sentimental feeling we can relate to as if the Nativity is God’s version of a Hallmark card. We’re celebrating the in-breaking (or Advent…) of God’s Kingdom into the world. We stand on that bridge of time between the first coming and the second with pregnant hope and expectant joy. Do we understand the gravity and sheer magnitude of that fact? Seeing what we’ve done to Christmas as a culture, I’d say we don’t. As I mentioned, this is no simple act. The God of the universe, who out of no prerogative other than the outpouring of who God is, came to dwell among us, for us, and with us. Advent and Christmas are God’s definitive acts of grace. We don’t deserve it, we didn’t even ask for it. God just did it because God seeks to be in relationship with us. And this brings us to the scripture for this week as we are introduced to a new character in the Advent story: Mary.
Did God come into the world as a powerful ruler; a king, Caesar, or world power? Did God even come as a respected adult or leader of a local tribe? Surely God would at least come to a populated area and in an environment where survival and thriving was a sure bet? No, no, and no. How do we experience Emmanuel? God comes as a baby, the most helpless and vulnerable state of humanity. And not only that, but to a 14 year old virgin engaged to be married in a village of not more than 1,500 people. God gives completely of God’s giving of his entire self to us. And what is Mary’s reaction? “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my soul magnifies God my savior…” This celebrated Lukan hymn conveys the faith of Mary; a marginalized member of society herself who boldly accepts the task God gives.
But larger than Mary, this scripture is about God and God’s scandalous coming into the world. How will we respond? More stuff we don’t need? More stress amongst families? More money we don’t have? Or will we prepare by doing the work of God in the world? Remember, Christmas is not your birthday!
Blessings for the journey,