December 15, 2013- Third Sunday of Advent

Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who are in awe of him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; 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. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

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Advent 3  (Psalm 80, Isaiah 35, Luke 1:57-66)  Luke 1:46-55    What child is this?

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What child is this? Who, from within her womb, causes his mother to sing –

My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…

Mary sings – and the story of our salvation begins to unfold, with a song, breaking forth, interrupting the flow of time… revealing the nature of God our Savior…. in Christ the Son of God, son of Mary…

What child is this? Whose song is sung by his mother before his birth… A young-not-yet-married-mother-to-be who has accepted an angel’s word in faith – now, sings her song of praise, early in pregnancy – telling of God’s promises already fulfilled….

Singing “he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant… “

He has done great things for me and holy is his name…”

He has shown strength with his arm,

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,

he has helped his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy…”

Singing of what God has already done… long before its revealed to the rest of us…

Somewhere in the home of her relative, Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah the priest,  where Mary’s come to visit – she sings this song we now call the Magnificat – named after it’s beginning phrase, ‘my soul magnifies the Lord…’

Singing a foretaste of the message the child in her womb will preach as a grown man.

A song rooted and grounded in the scriptures of Israel… recalling the psalms, all of which were sung, and the songs of Moses and Miriam in Exodus, the songs of Judith and Deborah, and most of all Hannah’s song in the book of Samuel… Biblical songs and psalms of old…

Songs that tell what can’t be said sufficiently… with words alone…

What child is this – whose birth song speaks of radically-upside-down-changes – the powerful brought down from their thrones,  the lowly lifted-up – the hungry filled with good things, the rich sent away empty? A song of revolutionary changes in the world as we know it – starting with fervent praise of God – framed by recollections of God’s generous mercies – with God’s steadfast love and faithful justice sandwiched in between…

What child is this for whom we wait again this Advent? This brief beautiful often difficult season… of preparation for the birth of Jesus…

What child is this?

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I love the season of Advent… and waiting for the birth of Jesus…

And I confess I often have a hard time with the season…

Maybe it’s all the activities, all the rush of the season…

Our daughter Rohi having been in a production of The Nutcracker last weekend, involving over all the weeks before, many rehearsals, then several performances – all wonderful but also all giving me a closer-than-it-had-been-view of some of this seasonal flurry… (A flurry many of you are perhaps also quite familiar with…)

Probably it’s partly the dying of the light, earlier and earlier in the day…

This past week there was also a funeral on Tuesday – something I was glad to be able to help with – but I was also very tired at the end of that day…

That night I decided to leave all the dishes till morning, and I went and sat by the tree, in our living room, which was all in darkness except for the Christmas tree lights.

And of course there were no Christmas trees (let alone electric lights) in the time of Mary and Jesus…. But probably Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah also got tired…just like we do… especially during the long advents of their pregnancies…their times of long and patient waiting for new birth….

And probably from time immemorial we humans have struggled with this time of year, when the light seems to be disappearing, and the darkness growing longer, darker.

And from time immemorial, in this season, we’ve raised voices in song. Singing our hopes… our faith… our trust in God… as a way of remembering… the light still shines… in the darkness….

That night last week I found myself sitting by the tree, singing Christmas songs… Soon to be joined by Rohi (who usually knows more verses than I do with most of the hymns). Singing together, first quieter songs… like It came upon a Midnight Clear… Little Town of Bethlehem… Away in a Manger…. What Child is This…

After we’d sung all the quieter ones, we gradually got to singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing…even Joy to the World

Til it was, before we knew it, quite late and way past Rohi’s bedtime… and past mine too…

Perhaps this is how Mary learned the song she sings today…

Sitting quietly in the  evening…  Remembering old songs, like the psalms and Hannah’s song from the book of Samuel, songs she probably knew from childhood… (Some of Hannah’s song is even recycled in her own song… Though most of her song is unique…it follows the basic forms of other biblical songs and psalms of praise…singing praises, then explaining some of the why and what-for of the praises… then some of the applications… finally back to praise…)

And I ponder Mary singing this song, inspired by the Holy Spirit and the holy baby inside her… I picture Jesus singing to his mother from within her womb… Till she can sing the song herself, at just the right time, out-loud for all the world to hear…

A song that has to be from the Holy Spirit and from Jesus, because –

Ever since… her song serves as introduction to the main themes of Luke’s gospel… Reminding us again of the subversive message of Christmas… The subversive message of Jesus our Savior.

A message it’s still easy to miss in the hurry and flurry and busyness and distractions of the season…

The message of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Son of Mary… alive by grace among us and within us, his body, the church, already… by the miracle of God’s all-gracious love…

Reminding us, as only a child can do…. Of the message of his salvation given unto all… For God so loved the world…

A message which still requires of us that we receive it in trust, like a child…  A message of salvation that still requires God’s bringing down those on high and lifting up of those pressed-down… (It’s not that God wants to punish the rich and powerful…It’s just the nature of God’s salvation… that those who have more than enough must share with those who lack necessities… This is how God helps rich and poor alike, in the grand plan of salvation, God so greatly desires… for all.)

And Mary’s song is framed always by mercy – his mercy shown in his selection of one who describes herself as a lowly servant…His mercy, which sacred scripture tells us, is for all those who are in awe of him, from generation to generation…His  mercy shown to Mary, his mercy shown to his servant Israel, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever…

Though Israel’s sins and failures are well-documented in scripture, still God’s mercy gets the last word…

Mary’s song encompasses the personal and universal, starting with recounting what God has done for me… Moving seamlessly into what he has done for all God’s people…

A song that still rings out to wherever hearts are open to Jesus…

Inviting us to join his mother and all the angels and Jesus himself…

In singing a new song…

A song of God’s love brought to new birth…

A song of salvation for all…

If we are willing to trust in Jesus…

And join in his song…

And if we are…

Why don’t we say again –

Thanks be to God.

(Thanks be to God.)

Amen.

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