SERMON 12/23/18 Advent 4C St Monica’s Naples FL
Music feeds the soul
I love music and I think it is because my mother sang all the time when I was young. She taught me old hymns and Christmas carols and imbued me with an appreciation for the holy beauty of melody and song. When I’m low, when things are not working out as I expected, or when I am joyful, anticipatory, and in a good mood, I usually turn to music for solace and encouragement. I enjoy so many genres of music and my playlists are very diverse. I enjoy James Taylor and Modern Bluegrass, AC/DC and John Bon Jovi, Darius Rucker and Sheryl Crow, and I love the classics and even Gregorian Chant. More often than not, I turn to my Pandora Radio app for a variety of music, all depending on my mood. Pandora’s app is free, and with it you can choose any category, artist, and era of songs your heart desires. With Pandora radio, if a song comes up on your screen that you do not like, just skip to the next.
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 “Spa Music Paradise” station the other day, Mary’s song, the “Magnificat,” came on. I thought, “How appropriate for this hymn to play. We are coming to the close of the season of Advent, and The Magnificat is the hymn embeded in today’s gospel reading. When this ancient hymn emerged in my rotation of music, without hesitation I clicked the “thumbs up” button on the app, because this song is really our song.
Magnificat – Mary’s Song of Love
“Mary’s Magnificat” is found only in Luke’s Gospel, and it is one of four hymns extracted from a collection of early Jewish-Christian canticles that complement the promise/fulfillment theme of Luke’s Incarnation narrative.” Some scholars debate whether the historical Mary herself actually composed this canticle and yet, Luke portrays her as the singer of this song and the interpreter of the events taking place.” Whether Mary wrote the tune or not, our tradition teaches us that the Magnificat is the song of the young peasant girl Mary, who remained faithful to God in a circumstance that was not expected, and where distress, uncertainty, abandonment, and even death could have been the outcome. For a girl so young, a girl betrothed to her husband, and a girl who discovered she was pregnant out of wedlock, she was in a bad place, and a song was the solace she 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 be bringing into the world through her very self, the author of love and peace. Young Mary would bare the creator of all, the Redeemer of the World, the promised one of old, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Magnificat was the song, to which Mary turned in this moment, in order to find comfort, reassurance, and hope.
Magnificat – Our Song
Mary’s song is not merely hers alone, but it is our song as well, because like Mary, who faithfully responded to God’s call and stayed true to her mission, we must realize and respond likewise. Because it is in people and not things that God wishes to dwell. God desires to be made manifest, to be incarnated, to live in and through each of our lives. Like Mary, we are to make Christ present in the world, by baring the savior in us, and to do so with peace, hope, joy and LOVE, for all the world to see.
We are the voices and instruments, by which the glorious hymnody of the Good News of God’s kingdom is played. In order for us to faithfully accept that awesome responsibility, we must not just study the narrative of salvation, but we have to internalize it, believe it, and be changed by it. We must not just intellectualize God’s grace through Jesus Christ, although that may be where the seed of grace is planted, but we must embrace it in our hearts as well, and we must strive to make God’s Kingdom a reality today, right here and right now.
The song of grace, mercy, love, hope, and promise in Christ is the song that we must chant in our soul. It must inform our daily lives, it must become the beat by which we pace our relationships, and it must inspire us to acts of love. This song of grace is the theme, the anthem, and hymn of the Kingdom of God.
Singing the Song that challenges us
God’s kingdom is the leveling reality of life, where the powerful and the lowely meet, where the rich and hungry share God’s abundance, where the hopeless and hopeful bring mutual joy and support to one another. Mary through her life song demonstrated that possibility so well. She sang, “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.”
Listen to that melody. You can recognize the words. Be aware of the nuances of pitch and timbre (tambor). Feel the base line of the hymn found in the notes of humility, love, and grace, where pride is not important in God’s kingdom. A crescendo emerges at those moments where God’s Kingdom thwarts human indignity and injustice. The song’s beat quickens where the low of spirit and defeated find dignity and justice in God’s kingdom. The song becomes melodic joy where hunger (literal, spiritual, emotional, intellectual hunger) is filled in God’s kingdom. The song moves us to change, where the opulent, well-to-do, discover that being emptied of things and filled by God’s grace, brings us closer to the experience of sanctification and forgiveness.
This is the one song we can all sing, but sometimes, 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 I responded to God’s call today?” That same song forces us to ask, “Have I ignored God’s call on my life again?”
The truth of the matter is this, we are fickle and easily distracted. In the noise of our busy lives, we give God a deaf ear, 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, because faithful discipleship comes with ups and downs, difficulties and pain, joy and elation, and all of these together are the reflections and signs of the Kingdom of God bursting through in our lives. So, before you click next on the radio dial, try listening for God’s loving, drawing, and wooing in every song you hear.
Jump in and Sing
Another song came across my playlist the other day, which was written by my favorite female artist Sheryl Crowe. The words of her 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 she wrote this ballad, I hear the faint words of grace and encouragement. I catch the nudge of God, to jump into this Christian life with both feet, to accept its ups and downs, and to trust God all along the way, and in doing so, I get a little bit closer to feeling fine, to realizing grace is real. You will not find this more modern melody in any hymnal, but like all music, if you listen close enough, God might just speak to you through the many voices we encounter in life.
Like Mary, our lives are a conduit for the grace of God’s love that is born in and through us , and it will always be born through the transformation of our lives that is, when we begin to sing the song. This Christian life can be one filled with expectation, waiting, joy, celebration, and elation if we trust God and yes, if we sing! When discouraged, uncertain, anxious, and afraid, God’s love and grace is delivered in and through us, so sing! Maybe your song is like Mary’s, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” So sing! Maybe your journey of faith has just begun, or reignited, or maybe the faith journey you are on is filled with uncertainty, and your song sounds more like, “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.” So, my sisters and brothers, the song of promise and grace in Christ is playing, so sing it and sing it loud, and sing it from the heart!