Sermon for December 20, 2020
Based on Luke 1:26-38 and Luke 1:46b-55
So, in the middle of March we were confronted with circumstances which were certainly beyond my realm of experience. I expect they were outside of many of yours also.
Shut everything down. Don’t gather in large groups. Maintain a healthy distance and wear a mask when meeting with anyone outside your personal household.
It affected everything. We are only beginning to come to grips with how our society is being changed by this pandemic.
Personally, it certainly impacted how I do my job. How do I care for and offer spiritual guidance to a congregation? How do I lead worship when we cannot gather in one place?
This was certainly not something that was specifically addressed in seminary.
I don’t want to say I wasn’t provided with tools for this, but I wasn’t given any particular skill set around the use of social media for worship.
Some of the words Mary speaks in today’s readings certainly resonate a bit differently this year. “How can this be?” And, Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be according to your word.”
Now, I don’t want to equate for a minute my situation to that of Mary, the mother of Jesus. But, perhaps we can recognize some of the reactions, some of the misgivings and the anxiety, she must have experienced when receiving the message of what was in front of her.
There are times in our lives when we are confronted with unexpected or perhaps unthinkable tasks. Moments when we ask ourselves, how will we possibly get through this?
Our congregation found a way. We adapted and found ways to work as a community showing the love and faith which bind us together.
The story of Mary visited by the angel Gabriel is the story of a girl receiving news that at first is unthinkable and absolutely life changing. Some people argue her response is to say yes. Yes to God and to the enormous task in front of her. Others argue her response is more of an acknowledgement that she really has no say in the matter.
Either way, Mary takes on this new role for her life, and based on the second passage we read this morning she finds blessing in this new reality.
My soul magnifies the Lord.
Mary has a very clear idea of who the God is whom she worships. She articulates that God vividly in her song. This is a God who stands with the poor and the oppressed. The God who casts down the mighty and sends the rich away hungry.
God works with and through those who are normally ignored or silenced.
This God is working to change the world for the poor and the hungry.
The sick and the voiceless. That is why God comes in to the world through a yet to be married girl in a village in the middle of nowhere.
And that is what this story is ultimately about. I mean the Christmas story.
God so loved the world that God comes to live amongst us. God becomes human. But not born into privilege. Not to wealth and power. No. God comes to live amongst the poor and the marginalized. To truly experience of what it means to live without. Without resources. Without power. Without status.
A humble birth far from the centre of power.
God so loved the world.
It is very difficult; if not impossible, to separate what is often called the Annunciation; the foretelling of Jesus’ birth, from the actual birth narrative.
God speaks to and works through people with no power and very little voice.
Oh, Mary, has a voice, we hear it clearly in her song of praise. But it is not a voice many are going to listen to.
Except God. God sees Mary and hears Mary and through Jesus, God will call her mother.
God sees who we are. God hears us when we speak and God knows what we can do. God sees our value. We might be prepared to minimize what we are capable of and what we offer to the world. That is a lesson the world is very good at teaching us, isn’t it?
There was a story that swept through social media this past week. A columnist with the Wall Street Journal, disparaged the doctorate of soon to be First Lady of the United States; Dr. Jill Biden. Her doctorate is in education. It was a column that somehow succeeded in disparaging women; non medical doctorates and those with the temerity to show pride in their academic achievements, all at once.
Sadly, it confirmed what is sadly already well known to women. There is a risk involved in proclaiming your expertise and your value. It is easier to stay quiet. This is not exclusive to women; but I would argue the world is far more forgiving of men who name their value and their expertise.
But the point remains. God knows us and hears us and wants us to know who we are and what we offer.
And Mary in her song names her part in God’s work in the world. My soul magnifies the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name.
Mary knows who she is and how God sees her. And she sings her praise.
May we all come to realize how our souls magnify God. May we all sing that future generations will call us blessed.
God so loved the world that God became human. Born of a virgin in an out-of-the-way town to humble beginnings.
And yet the world was changed.
Thanks be to God.
Rev. Warner Bloomfield
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