Magnify

Advent 4 - December 20, 2020
2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Luke 1:46b-55
Romans 16:25-27 
Luke 1:26-38

Magnify

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

We started this sermon series on the Psalms appointed for the Sundays in Advent.  Yet, you will notice that today’s psalm is not from the book of Psalms but is from Luke…a gospel…in the New Testament.  Is this a case of Marcionism where the lectionary believes the God of the New Testament is different from the God of the Old Testament?  Marcionism is a heresy which was condemned in the 2nd century, so I think we can safely assume that an ecumenical committee set up by mainline churches would not be propagating a 1800 year old heresy in their choice of psalm.  In fact, if you remember from what I said on November 29, the first Sunday in Advent, not all the Biblical psalms are in the book of the Psalms.  In fact, there are other psalms in the Bible such as Exodus 15 (the Song of Moses), nearly 75% of the book of Revelation, Philippians 4 (the Christ Hymn) and Luke 1:46-55, otherwise known as the Magnificat.  

But how did Mary get to this point? Her story begins in a town called Nazareth.  She was a virgin and was engaged to man named Joseph.  In those days, an angel named Gabriel appeared to her and told her what God was planning to do. He says, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” What an interesting way to say hello. No wonder she is feeling perplexed by Gabriel’s greeting.  And then Gabriel says to Mary, “Do not be afraid…” Why tell someone not to be afraid if you are not scary looking or the news you bring would cause fear? 

Mary is obviously frighten.  It is either his appearance or his message that terrifies her.  Angels are terrifying creatures.  Remember, they are the warriors of heaven.  Gabriel is a part of the Marines.  Think of a guy dressed like Rambo appearing in your room…Lurking in the shadows. Judging by the way Luke writes, I am assuming that Mary is scared of Gabriel’s appearance but the news he brings her would cause alarm as well.  “You have found favor with God...” is never good thing to hear from an angel. It means God has some crazy adventure that God wants you to do.  Any hopes and dreams of Mary getting rich and living the easy life have gone out the window at this point—not that she ever really had any of those plans to begin with.  Yet, what God has planned for her will simply blow her mind.  

“You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” The virgin will conceive a son and she will name him Jesus.  A virgin engaged to another man will conceive a son.  This sort of thing does not happen.  Nowhere in Hebrew Bible has a virgin conceived a child.  An older woman, yes.  It happens a few times, but never a virgin.  It sounds something out a fairytale that nobody would ever believe.  You don’t need to be a biology major to understand how one conceives and bears a child.  And to have this happen at a period in human history where a woman had no rights, where women were seen as property of either their Father or spouse, when a woman convicted of adultery could face death and be thrown out of the family—I am not sure if Mary is more afraid of Gabriel or at the news that he brings.   Yet, Mary does not shriek from the responsibility thrusted upon her by God.  Perhaps that is why God choose her—God knew she could handle this.  Mary does not tell the angel she needs time to think it over.  She says to the angel, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’

But then she leaves home to visit her cousin.  Luke doesn’t tell us why.  So, many people have speculated and wondered if Mary was trying to run away.  Luke, though, gives us some clues—mainly that Mary wanted to see this other miracle which has taken place:  Elizabeth, an older woman, giving birth to a child.  That is most likely the answer, but our biblical imaginations sometimes run a bit wild here, and that’s okay.  Mary leaves at once for the Judean town where Elizabeth and Zechariah live.  Upon entering the house, the child in Elizabeth’#s belly leaps for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice.  The Holy Spirit speaks through Elizabeth and she proclaims, “‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy.” Elizabeth is a proclaimer of the good news just like Mary Magdalene was on the day of Christ’ resurrection.  (START MUSIC) She reveals to Mary the good news that awaits in the world in her belly.  And then Mary sings…

In the midst of such horrible, bad news for Mary, she proclaims that God will not act in the future, but is acting now.  I don’t know how she does it.  Around the time of our Lord’s birth, there was a Jewish rebellion against Rome. This particular rebellion was squelched “when The Syrian legions under the direction of Rome crashed the Jewish rebellions and burned the city of Sepphoris in Galilee and reduced its inhabitants to slavery…Those who could not hide from the Syrian legions “were killed, raped, and enslaved. Those who survived had lost everything.” Nazareth was about 4 miles from Sepphoris. Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth must witness this horrific act.  

Mary knew first hand the power that Rome possessed in the world.  She also knew that because she was not a citizen, she had none of the protections that came from being a Roman citizen.  She also knew that because she was a woman, she had no rights within her own community.  Elizabeth sees in Mary the hope for her people and the world.  Elizabeth knows that in Mary’s belly was the salvation promised to Abraham and Sarah many years ago.  She recognized that Mary was carrying the savior of the world and God had entrusted her with the duties of caring for her son who would be God’s salvation for the world.

“The Magnificat demonstrates that God is concerned with the social and political realities of the daily life of Jews, and God acts on behalf of the oppressed and against the proud and powerful. God brings down the powerful and lifts the lowly. God is God of this moment and the moment to come. God’s salvation is present here on earth and in the coming future. According to Mary, God’s salvific action is present-already and not just future reality. Here we can understand that Jesus’ salvation starts at the moment of the Annunciation and ends at the cross. Salvation is not limited to crucifixion, but the whole life of Jesus was salvific action. God is ruling on earth as in heaven. God rules instead of Caesar. The Magnificat is inviting us to imagine how the world would look like if Jesus sat on Augustus’ throne and ruled with peace and justice. Jesus, the new King, rules on earth without Caesar’s permission. He rules not through violence, but he rules with mercy.”

The magnificat magnifies God’s new plan for the world.  A plan where the mighty have fallen and the lowly are lifted up.  A plan where mercy rules the land and not violence.  A plan where the hungry are fed and and the rich are sent away empty—the complete opposite of what the world offers.  And so my question this day, on this last Sunday in Advent, what needs to be magnified in your life?  What do we need to magnify in order welcome the return of Christ? 

If we are to be truly authentic, then we must acknowledge the role that women play in the early part of the gospel.  The women are the ones who proclaim the good news.  In fact, the only man in the first chapter of the Luke is made mute by God because he doubts God’s ability to give him and his wife a child.  He doesn’t believe God and this guy is a priest—you would think a priest would know and understand that God knows how to help older women get pregnant—he has done it before.  The men are speechless…the women are the evangelist.  A woman who could hav been killed for being found with a child out of wedlock. A woman who spent her entire life being ridiculed for not having a child while younger—who was told by many religious elite that her barrenness was because God was punishing her.  God entrust two women, coming from completely different generations, with the task of proclaiming the good news and bearing the Word of God made flesh.  

If we are going to be authentic this Advent, we must magnify and shine light on the role women play on proclaiming the gospel.  If we are going to be authentic this Advent, we must magnify and shine light on the role that the-least-likely-people have in defining the coming of our Lord: The hungry, the meek, those who show mercy, a nation of people who are being held as nothing more than slaves to the empire.  If we are going to be authentic this Advent season, we must also be willing To our young women when they speak just as we listen to a young, 14 year old Mary sing of the greatness of her God. If we are going to be authentic this Advent season, we must also be willing to condemn the spending of billions of dollars to make Christmas more magical. If we are going to be authentic this advent, we need to promote the idea of the powerful be thrown out of their thrones and the lowly put in their place.  If we are going to be authentic, we need to proclaim the radical nature of the gospel— The gospel is suppose to make us feel uneasy.  God has come to scatter the proud, bring down the powerful, and send the rich away with nothing to eat just like when the rich send the poor away with nothing to eat.  The gospel is good news for some and bad news for others. If you are hearing this message as bad news, then you might need to reconsider your place and role in the world. 

So, what are you going to magnify this day? Who are you going to magnify this day?  What do you want to see changed in your life and in the world around you?  What is God already doing that you couldn’t see until now, this moment?  If Mary has nothing to fear, neither do you.  Mary faced death.  She faced being kicked out of her family.  She faced a lifetime of public ridicule for being that girl who had a child out of marriage.  She risked it all and God blessed her. Why can’t the same be done for you?  What is holding you back?  Not much has changed since Mary first sang this song:  “People are still anticipating deliverance from unjust rulers and unjust law.”  People are still waiting on Christ to return.  How can you be like Mary and Elizabeth this day?  How can you proclaim and magnify the good news of God?  Who can you call blessed?

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.