Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 18, 2011, Christ Episcopal Church, La Crosse, Wisconsin
2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16, Magnificat: Canticle 15 (BCP p. 91), , Romans, 16: 25-27, Luke 1: 26-38
Thanks for reading with me Mary’s Magnificat:
My soul magnifies the Lord,…. (Luke 1:46-55)
Mary a simple young woman lived in the town of Nazareth had never expected to be celebrity or famous. She simply lived like any other young lady in her town. She kept the Ten Commandments and followed the laws of God. Like any other Jewish young lady she expected that a Savior will be born to bring salvation and redemption to her people. She simply waited upon the Lord for his mercy. There was no four Sundays of Advent, nor did Santa or the western type of Advent filled with consumers glitzy shopping malls. Many simply believed that God of Israel cares for his people and shall come to their rescue. Her land was occupied and Romans terribly taxed and ill treated her people. She must have lifted her hands in prayer and asked God to bring salvation to her people. One day while she must have finished her chores and sat down imaging I wish God will send his Messiah to help her people. Suddenly in her courtyard an Angel of the Lord appeared:
Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you… Do not be afraid Mary, for you have
Found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and
You will name him Jesus. He will be great, to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary did not protest why me Lord. You understand for Virgin to be found pregnant in that culture was quite an anathema. First her betrothed husband Joseph shall leave her and her community either stones her to death or throws her out. She will have to live in shame for the rest of her life.
Mary was not submissive to the point that she would not ask any question. In fact she was quite perplexed and with great courage asked the angel of the Lord:
How can this be, since I am a Virgin?
She shows her anxiety about this strange message. The angel said to her:
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
Once Mary recovered from the initial shock her mind traced down the history how God of the Bible has been true and faithful when he spoke to Sarah, Abraham’s wife, Hannah to bless her with Samuel and her cousin Elizabeth to miraculously bless these barren ladies with pregnancy. She understood that same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and her forefathers and mothers who has power to turn impossibilities to possibilities. She realized this God of impossibilities, had chosen her for the mission of God, to give birth to the Messiah the Savior of the world’ who shall save them from sin and death. She sings her Magnificat.
We also learn here a strange fact that “We may not demand of sovereign Creator that God explain to us his creatures…God had good and sufficient reasons for His actions; we trust His sovereign wisdom and love.” For God Himself said through Isaiah:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,
declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways
higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55: 8-9).
In this state of awe and humility then Mary said:
Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.
Mary kept pondering on this message why God has chosen a simple believer from Nazareth for such an awesome task. One day in gratitude she burst out with such song of praise and adoration:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord …
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
And lifted up the lowly (Luke 1: a47, 52)
Mary’s song evokes a robust confidence in the God who was about to turn the world upside down through her son. She praises God who is concerned with the oppressed. She rejoices in God who does not focus on the power of the mighty but on mercy and compassion. In fact, Mary gives this good new; that the proud, the rich and the mighty would do well to look upon this God with some real anxiety. Mary voice is rising from the bottom of the society with those sitting with her at its margins. Her words could mean that Herod the Great King of Israel, who has taxed her people well beyond her means, would be overthrown. His days of dotting Israel’s landscape with pagan shrines were numbered. Had Mary sung this song in Nazareth among peasants they would have all raised a toast and shouted “Hallelujah.” And “Amen.”
Mary’s song is more than a pious canticle sung in liturgical churches throughout the world every evening at Vespers or evensong to celebrate personal faith. Much more than this, Mary’s song praises God for cracking the heavens wide open and descending into the world to establish justice and rout unjust rulers.
Mary song inspired Bishop Tutu to speak against apartheid in South Africa and seek justice and equality for black and colored people. Mary”s song inspires the church to stand in solidarity with those who seek equal opportunity to work and economic justice, religious freedom, protection of human rights and right of 2 billion people who yet have to hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As we come to the final Advent Sunday before we enter into the season of joy of the incarnation of the Savior of the World. Mary’s song challenges us to deepen our dependence upon God. Mary had such confidence that she knew God was in the world every moment, every hour and every day. This God comes to us at Christmas as Emmanuel, God with us in the person of Jesus Christ. Like Mary let us surrender in obedience our lives to God and say:
Here am I, the servant of the Lord; Let it be with me according to
your word (Luke 1:38).
Come on Christmas Eve and worship with us as the angel said that Christmas would bring:
Great Joy…for all the people (Luke 2: 10b)
Invite your family and your friends and come here to celebrate the birthday party for Jesus and receive this good news:
God loves you!
God is with you!