4th Sunday in Advent
December 18, 2011
“My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on my lowliness…his mercy is for those who fear him…he has shown strength with his arm and scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:46-55)
Every time I read that I wonder when it will ever be true. Mary’s song envisions the remaking of the world where the lion will lie down with the lamb and a child shall lead them. When was it ever true? This year has been surrounded by some of the most contentious public and political debate that I can remember, and yet over at the Holiday Partnership they are having to increase the food and gifts they provide by 30% to meet the needs of this small community. Doesn’t it seem as if the rich get all the favors and the poor just get hungry?
I remember reading Mary’s Song of joy in Xela in the winter of 2004, celebrating Nochebuena with Lila and Marie Jose whose major income was the $28 a week they got from the school to feed and house me while I studied their language. At our Christmas Eve was a Mayan couple from the country dressed in the colorful handwoven clothes. They carried their new baby boy, only a few weeks old, wrapped in a snowy blanket. They looked at him as if he would be the one to save the world for them. And I wondered if every family with such great need expects that the world will be better for their children than it is for them.
This morning as we meet Mary again, I am struck by her willingness to say yes. What stands out for me is Mary’s ordinariness. She is not someone schooled in theology, prepared for priesthood, part of a leadership family or privileged position. She is a girl like our own teenagers, faithful and believing, but ordinary. Her life was mapped out for her already. She would marry a man who could support her and a family. They were equally matched in their family connections, both of the lineage of David according to Matthew’s Gospel. She would have been trained already in how to run a household, and had probably been part of a group of women who had helped each other birth babies, bury parents and spouses, and minister to the sick among them.
When the angel comes to tell her that she is chosen for a special responsibility, she says yes. And then she asks the question we all ask when confronted with the sudden and awesome changes that will be required of us, “How can this be?” How could this be happening to me?
At some time in your life you, too, have said YES to something awesome and wondrous that will change your life forever. You fell in love and agreed to a life with someone forever and you said yes in public. You decided to go to college. Or maybe you said yes to a job opportunity instead. Maybe your YES was accepting something you would not have chosen for yourself: chemotherapy, open-heart surgery, moving to assisted living, setting out on a new career path, finding a new job. Perhaps your YES was arrived at beside the bed of loved one who was dying, or upon the news of a son or daughter suddenly snatched from you. You agreed to go on living even though life would never be the same.
God comes to Mary out of the blue. Just like God came to Moses in that bush, or to the prophet Jeremiah, who would rather have done anything else than speak for God to people who didn’t want to hear. Just like God came as a baby born in insignificant circumstances, instead of as a King or an Emperor. Jesus spent his life as an outsider, he was homeless, a refugee, a working man, an itinerant teacher, an accused blasphemer, and because he was so close to the people who had been left out, he was so beloved and believed that he was a threat to the powers in place.
And so he comes to us. He comes to walk with us through sorrow and pain, and through joy and blessing. Jesus is God with us, the final yes to all God’s promises. Jesus is God’s yes to us. Yes, I love you. Yes, I forgive you. Yes, I am with you, always. So if you came here today, wondering if God is real and wants to know you, God says yes. If you came wondering if you can be forgiven for those things you’re not sure you can really talk about, God says yes. If you came wondering if God can heal your hurt, your pain, your fear, God says yes. The road you are walking may not be clear, as you set out on the ventures to which God has called you. Maybe you think you are walking without a map, making it up each day. Like Mary’s road was scary and uncertain. But she was chosen, like you are chosen.
We are called, as Mary was called, to be a part of healing the world. Our hands are God’s hands to feed the hungry, to comfort the mourning, to speak good news. Our gift of faith, of being favored, is for each other as we walk side by side carrying a lamp for each other in the darkness. That lamp is the light of Christ, the yes of God. We bear it as hope for a world in which the rich always seem to win and poor go away empty. And so we work together because at the same time that we bear the light of Christ, we are the lost and the poor, feeling as if justice never comes. We hold each other, we pray for each other. And God walks with us every step of the way.
When you ask, “How can this be?” remember that we are God’s gifts to each other and to the world God is remaking in the midst of chaos. We are all in this together, to help each other walk our paths as they unfold. As we walk we wait for the day when Mary’s vision becomes our reality, and God’s vision for us and our world will finally be fulfilled.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.