12/23/12, Mary's Song Is Your Song

Micah  1:2-5, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-55

The gospel story we hear today is a gentle one compared to the earlier readings of the Advent season.  Recall that the first week we heard Jesus’ warning about destruction coming upon the earth.  The second week John the Baptist called for repentance.  In last week’s gospel John named changed behavior as proof of repentance.  But this week we hear about the young girl Mary, newly pregnant by the Holy Spirit, making a visit to her aged cousin Elizabeth.  Mary’s effort to reach Elizabeth by undertaking an arduous journey and Elizabeth’s enthusiastic reception of her younger relative are told in few words.  But one can feel such a tenderness in this story that what becomes most apparent in the telling of it is the love that is coming to human birth in a new way in the baby that Mary is carrying.

Theologically speaking, Luke tells the story of this meeting  between two women to have the identity of Mary’s child confirmed by Elizabeth in a mystical way.  But there’s a more personal human story behind this that speaks to us today..

It’s easy to imagine that both Mary and Elizabeth were in situations of feeling misunderstood and isolated from their communities.  Mary was “illegimately” pregnant and Elizabeth, a postmenopausal woman, was questionably pregnant by a husband who couldn’t speak a word of explanation about her pregnancy.  If I had been in Mary’s shoes, I might have wanted to visit with an older woman who could help me understand what was going to happen to me. And if I was wearing Elizabeth’s shoes, I might have welcomed the visit of a younger woman wanting my wisdom. As these women meet, they affirm in each other the work of God.  They begin to understand themselves more fully as part of something larger than their inexplicable individual destinies.

In this interchange of loving affirmation, there is a lesson for us who share Christian community.    Elizabeth recognizes what God will be doing through Mary as this child Jesus comes into the world. She says, “Blessed are you for believing that what God says will be accomplished in you!”  And Mary receives this affirmation with humble acceptance and a song of praise for the God to whom Elizabeth has pointed.  In this song, God’s presence in all things throughout all ages is extolled.  Mary acknowledges that what is going on is not really all about her-  it’s all about what God is doing in her.   Mary stays on with Elizabeth for some time.  We may imagine that not only did she give aid to Elizabeth as the aged woman grew large with child, but that she also affirmed Elizabeth as she continued to draw wisdom and encouragement from her.

I think that this story might also be about US.  What is going on in each of our lives is not primarily about us as individuals, but about the presence of God coming to birth uniquely in each of us.  The Christ light is conceived in you and you and you and me.  But often we feel lonely and isolated and misunderstood- not only by others, but by ourselves.  We don’t know what’s going on with us.  We don’t understand what it is we carry within us to offer to the world.

Is it possible that the dialogue between Mary and Elizabeth is a model for the kind of affirmative conversations we should be having in this community?  Like Elizabeth, we can encourage and affirm one another by noticing the gifts we each carry to offer to the world.  Delores, you bring the gift of compassion and joy.  Karen, you bring the gift of quiet service.  Carol, you bring the gift of energetic precision.  Jim, you bring the gift of perspicacity. Marcia, you bring the gift of creativity. And so on… To each of you, “Blessed are you when you believe that what God intends in you will be accomplished!”

Where in your small story has God been at work?  Each of us bears the Christ to this world in one form or another.  We do not compare the value or purpose of what each of us brings any more than Elizabeth said to Mary, “I sure wish it was me carrying Jesus instead of John!”  No, mutual affirmation of the work of God in each of us is an affirmation of our communal identity as the Body of Christ.

And then, like Mary, we can humbly acknowledge who we are, what we are bringing to birth and proclaim God’s presence in it as well as in all things.  We, like Mary, should be singing our own Magnificat.  “My soul proclaims your greatness and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior--- the God who sets me free.”     (Watch video of “The Magiificat” song.)

Mary’s song is your song.  Sing it with gusto and gratitude.  Christmas is all about the gift of love:  the love of God shown forth in a baby who grew to the fullness of the God present in him, teaching us to see God present in all things, most especially in ourselves.  May you be blessed in believing that the love God intends to express in you will be accomplished. 

by Sandi DeMaster