Sermon for Advent 4, Year C December 23, 2018

Micah 5:2-5a                      Canticle 15                                          Hebrews 10:5-10                              Luke 1:39-46

One of my favorite places we visited when I was in Israel was the Chapel of the Visitation.  Upon entering the gates, you see a wonderful statue of the two pregnant women, Mary and Elizabeth, greeting one another.  On a wall behind them there are 42 ceramic tablets, each containing the Magnificat in a different language.  This Song of Mary that we used as our psalm for today, serves as a wonderful reminder that each of us can identify with Jesus just as we relate to each other.  We were all born, we all had mothers who raised us – not always our birth mother, but we share the experience of having an influential woman in our lives who helped us learn what is important in life.

Mary and Elizabeth are cousins and greet each other, both as cousins and pregnant women, each knowing that the child she is carrying will bring special gifts to the world.  All children do.  Of course, not all of us realize our potential.  Most of us who have at least come close, are able to use our gifts because of women like Mary who have loved and encouraged us, women and men who have modeled for us a life of faithfulness.  I love the joy Mary expresses here, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

Her song praises God and reflects the hope of all her people. In the last two verses, she says, “[The Lord] has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”  The people of Israel live in an occupied land, but they have faith that God will send someone to save them from their oppression.

The season of Advent is about just such a hope, that God will remember each of us and free us from whatever oppresses us.  No one is this life is without worries and concerns.  Whether it be for ourselves, our own mental, physical, financial, or spiritual heath, or that of others, we sometimes feel oppressed by the weight of living in this world.

Mary’s song offers us hope, just as it did for her people.  God has not forgotten “his promise of mercy,” God has not abandoned us.  We know the story of the nativity well – though I must admitwhen I gave our members a test at pub theology this last week, some discovered they don’t know it as well as they thought.  Actually, most of us are a bid fussy on the details, our memories having been confused by all the Christmas Pageants we have attended.  But the details of the story are not what is important.  What is important is that Mary carries the child who will be known and remembered throughout all generations as Immanuel God in the flesh, and that Jesus does come to free us from oppression.

How?  Let’s return to the story.  When the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is to conceive and carry the Christ child, she says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  Immediately after this, she visits Elizabeth and sings God’s praises.  “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.”  God calls each of us to make this a better world and answering God’s call requires us to respond as Mary did, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

When we accept God’s call, the cares and occupations of this world do not end, but they do come into focus and cease to control our lives.  We experience freedom when we begin to see the world through the eyes of Christ.  We can then experience the peace that comes from knowing God has not abandoned us or our loved ones.  God’s love will ultimately overcome the darkness.  Accepting God’s call is to be a part of doing God’s work – but it is not to take on this task alone. God is with us and God is calling others to part of reconciling others to God.

The darkest day of the year was this past week.  Tomorrow night we will remember the star that appeared to wisemen in the East, and the glory of the Lord that shone around the shepherds in the field when the angels appeared to them to announce the birth of our Savior, Jesus, the Messiah.  His is the light that will show us the way to truth and life.

The prophet Micah told of “one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days . . .  he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of God.”  We may know the story of his birth, we know his birth was foretold.  We know that Jesus did not and does not rule on the earth as the people expected, but let us not forget that Jesus comes to us again and again, not only in the telling of his story, but when his love is revealed to us in unexpected way each day and in the darkest times of our lives.  So be alert and watch for the light that offers us hope in the darkness and that promises new life and peace.

Let us pray.

Loving God, quiet our minds that we might sit in anticipation of your coming.  Open our hearts that they might be filled with your grace and peace.  We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen