SERMON 12-23-12 Advent 4C
Micah 5:2-5a; Canticle 15; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45(46-55)
When I’m low, when things are not working out as I expected, when I am distressed and uncertain, when I am in the midst of a major transition, I turn to music and song for solace. When it comes to choosing a music source, I more often than not, turn to Pandora Radio, found on the web. Pandora’s app is free, and with it I can choose any genre of music, artist, or variety of song my heart desires. With Pandora radio, a song comes up on my screen and I don’t like it, I can choose to skip to the next. Now, for many of us, it is important to have music readily available because, music inspires us, it stirs emotions in us, it helps provide meaning in different situations, and music gives us hope. As I was listening to my favorite Pandora Gregorian Chant station the other day, Mary’s song, the “Magnificat,” the hymn embedded in today’s gospel reading, came up on my rotation of songs, and without hesitation, I made sure I did not skip this selection.
“Mary’s Magnificat is found only in Luke’s Gospel, and is one of four hymns, distilled from a collection of early Jewish-Christian canticles, which complement the promise/fulfillment theme of Luke’s infancy narrative.”1 Some scholars debate whether the historical Mary herself actually proclaimed this canticle, Luke portrays her as the singer of this song . . . and the interpreter of the events taking place.” The Magnificat is the song of a young peasant girl, who finds herself in circumstances that were not as expected, where distress and uncertainty abounded, where a major transition was emerging in and through her, and where solace was needed.
In the midst of her prenatal, supernatural circumstances, this young woman knew in her heart, in her magnifying soul and rejoicing spirit, that she would bring into the world through her very self, the author of love and peace, the creator of all surveyed, the Redeemer, the promised one, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Magnificat was the song to which Mary turned in this moment. Mary’s song is not merely hers, but it is our song as well, because it is in people and not things, that God wishes to live. God wishes to be made manifest, to be incarnated in each of us. Like Mary, it is through our lives, that we are to make Christ present in the world.
We are the voices and instruments, by which the Good News of God’s kingdom becomes known. To faithfully accept that awesome responsibility, we must know what God’s kingdom is all about, but we must embrace the Kingdom as well. God’s kingdom is a leveling place where the powerful and the lowly meet, the rich and hungry share God’s abundance. Mary, in her melody, understood that well. “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.”
Do you hear the song? Can you recognize the melody? Are you aware of the nuances of pitch and timbre (tambor)? Pride is not important in God’s kingdom. Powerful seats are thwarted in God’s kingdom. The low of spirit and situation find dignity and justice in God’s kingdom. Hunger (literal, spiritual, emotional, intellectual hunger) is filled in God’s kingdom. The opulent, well-to-do, discover that being emptied of things and filled by God’s grace, happens in God’s kingdom. This is one song we can all sing, but unfortunately, like an unpopular Pandora radio song selection, we would rather hit the skip button, than stay with the current tune. We need to listen carefully to the Magnificat, because Mary’s song is really our song.
Mary’s song prods us to ask ourselves, how have we responded to God’s call today? Have we ignored it? The truth is, “we are not only mortal, we are fickle and unfaithful, and easily distracted. All too often, in the noise of our busy lives, we give God a deaf ear. And we are glad to do so, because listening to God requires more of us than we are willing to give.” The burden of God dwelling in us is too great for us to carry, maybe because we think that when God calls us and we respond, we expect that everything will be fine.
Following Jesus does not mean all will fall into place perfectly, but following Jesus means we will see ups and downs in life, difficulties and pain, joy and elation, and all of these are reflections and signs of the Kingdom of God bursting through in our lives. On Pandora the other day, another song came across my playlist. It was one written by my favorite artist, Sheryl Crowe. The words of the song are, “Jump in, let’s go, lay back, enjoy the show. Everybody gets high, everybody gets low, these are the days when anything goes. Everyday is a winding road, I get a little bit closer, everyday is a faded sign, I get a little bit closer to feeling fine.” Although maybe not Crowe’s intent when writing this ballad, I hear in its words encouragement to jump into this Christian life with both feet, to accept the ups and downs, and to trust God. Although this more recent melody won’t be found in any hymnal, it stands as a sign that God speaks to us through the many voices we encounter in life.
Like Mary, our lives are a conduit for the grace of God’s love that has burst through, is bursting through, and will always burst through each day of our lives that is, when we begin to sing the song. This Christian life is one filled with expectation, waiting, joy, celebration, elation and trust and yes, with song. When discouraged, uncertain, anxious, and afraid, may we allow God’s love and grace to be birthed in and through us. Be courageous, let this be your song, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Then let your life bring God forth, “Jump in, let’s go, lay back, enjoy the show, remember that everybody has highs, everybody has lows; in God’s Kingdom, where we all meet on the level of God’s grace, these are the days when anything goes.”