Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]
Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 23, 2018
Are you ready? Tomorrow night is Christmas Eve. Two more days until Christmas! Christmas brings with it many different emotions, sometimes all in one day. There is a time for every season. It may be this is the year that you are grieving the death of a loved one. Maybe one with whom you usually spend Christmas will be elsewhere. This Christmas might be shared with someone new,–a friend, a or a baby. Maybe this is the year that your son is giving gifts of socks with his portrait on them. (Yes, THAT son!)
While Christmas this year may have changes, we have traditions that we keep. Maybe it is buying your children new toothbrushes, or making pecan pie. Reverse that. Toothbrushes should definitely come after the pecan pie. Do you all open gifts one at a time, or is it a free for all? Would it still be Christmas if you did not drive around looking at Christmas lights? Then there is Uncle Joe who always wears the sweater that won the ugliest Christmas sweater contest.
Churches have traditions, too, like jingling bells when singing carols, or setting out the manger scene over the course of Advent. One of my favorite traditions is to go with people to sing Christmas carols to those who are ill and those who are homebound. This year, as in many past, when we gathered in a large room and begin to belt out tunes, people come out of their rooms to join us. I always assume that it is because these carols warm their hearts, and not that they think they heard feral cats fighting when I begin to sing. This year, when we asked one lady who had joined us what her favorite Christmas carol is, she quickly responded, “Jingle Bells.” There has been quite of bit joyful singing lately. The coming of our Lord inspires people to burst out in song.
It was as true in the beginning as it is now. That first Advent, John, who would become the Baptizer, danced in his mother Elizabeth’s womb when he heard Jesus’ mother Mary speaking. Then Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she began to sing. Mary followed Elizabeth’s song with one of her own.
It’s easy to picture this scene as an upbeat musical starring two pregnant women, but it really wasn’t like that. Elizabeth was too old to have a baby, and Mary was too young. Mary was not even married. (Getting married before having a baby was normal back then.) Pregnant Mary traveled this long road by herself. Mary probably went far south to stay with Elizabeth because her pregnancy would, at the very least, have brought shame upon her family. At worst, she could have been stoned to death for adultery. Now here she was with Elizabeth, pregnant and unmarried, not knowing much about what was to come because she said yes to God’s invitation.
The fact that God chose Mary to be the mother of our Lord and Savior is… interesting. Mary was poor, uneducated, and young. Almost everything about her was condemned by society. She was a nobody, and God picked her? How ridiculous! … How subversive!
In a world where the chasm between rich and poor people was pronounced, the disabled were ignored, and women and children were considered inferior, Mary sings:
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
And lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And sent the rich away empty.
These are God’s promises, and Mary proclaims them as if they had already been accomplished. Mary herself was, in fact, part of the reality of God’s kingdom come. Mary is evidence that God opens the way to make the impossible happen. It began with this marginalized young girl saying “yes” to God. This was probably the first time anyone had every shown her mercy instead of judgment. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Mary received a new sense of purpose, and the knowledge that impossible things happen. Christmas sweaters and looking at Christmas lights are part of tradition, they are not what Christmas is about. The birth of Jesus is about God doing something we never would have thought was possible. It began with God’s invitation through the angel Gabriel, and even though Mary was perplexed, she said ‘”Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”’ Through Mary’s “yes,” the lamed walked, and lepers were healed. The lost were found. With five loaves and two fish, thousands upon thousands of hungry people were fed. Tax collectors gave refunds. Sins were forgiven, and healing happened.
What if we said yes to God’s invitation to open our eyes to the joy and possibilities of God’s kingdom? What if we trusted in God’s promises? What if we really knew God loves us? What if we believe God loves people of every shade and color and orientation? What if we believed that the person walking the streets is as worthy as we are of love? Would we showed mercy instead of judgment? What if this Christmas, we put aside our anger, our self-centeredness and our fear? Would everyone have food, and shelter, and medical care? What if we believe that through God the impossible happens?
May God open our hearts wide enough so that we break out in song.
~Pastor Cheryl Ann Griffin