Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent Evening Prayer: Meditation on Luke 1:26-55

Scripture can be found here....

I grew up on the protest songs, the songs of liberation of the 60’s. Well, to tell you the truth, I grew up on “Build Me Up, Buttercup” and anything by the Partridge Family and the Osmonds. But when it was time for me to learn to play the guitar, a sweet and gangly 16-year-old boy name Michael placed in front of 10-year-old me the chords to “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and I was introduced simultaneously to Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul and Mary, and the anti-war movement.

How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Throughout history, people have lifted their voices in song to raise the social justice issues of their day. Those who wanted an end to the war in Viet Nam sang “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “If I Had a Hammer.” In Selma and Montgomery marchers for Civil Rights sang “We Shall Overcome.”

This is the kind of song Mary is singing in tonight’s reading—the song we all just sang together. Mary is singing a song of liberation. She’s singing a freedom song.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; 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. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

It’s a curious thing, this freedom song of Mary’s. So far, what we know of her story is that God sent an angel to announce to her that, with her consent, she would give birth to a child. And Mary is young. Younger than you can imagine. Mary and Joseph are engaged, and young girls were engaged at around the age of 12, so this is any time after that. She is young, and she is inexperienced—she has no intimate knowledge of Joseph, or any man for that matter. But the angel tells her, nevertheless, she is the one God has chosen for the mother of this Son of God Most High, who will sit on the throne of her ancestor David. The Holy Spirit will make this happen, because nothing is impossible with God, the angel tells her.

And so Mary says, “Yes. Here I am, God’s servant. Let it be.”

Now, if I were to guess the nature of a song that Mary would sing at this point, the only thing that comes to mind would be some great psalm of supplication. “But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!” Help. Help me. What am I doing? What is happening to me? Help!

And yet, just a little while later, while visiting her cousin, Mary receives for the first time, confirmation that this is all not simply some fantasy she has cooked up in her adolescent mind. Her cousin Elizabeth, on seeing her, gets what sounds like the first kick from the baby she is carrying, and she blurts out, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

And so Mary hears from another person that this is real. That the angel’s promise is true. And instead of singing a lament of anguish or fear or simple puzzlement, she belts out a true freedom song. Here’s Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, from “The Message.”

I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.

Mary is feeling blessed by God—chosen, special, amazing. But listen to what else she is saying:

He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

In God’s choosing her, a nobody from nowheresville, Mary sees the fulfilment of a promise God made to her people long ago: A promise of a great reversal, a great leveling. The people who have been at the top of the heap and the ones at the bottom will be changing places. The hungry will be filled. The victims will be cared for and tended. God sees us. God has not forgotten.

God sees us.

This is what the coming of God-With-Us is all about. God sees us. God hears us. Our joys and sorrows, our cries of distress, our pains and anguish, our grieving and our dancing. God sees it. God hears it. And God chooses to be in it with us, to be a part of it.

And so Mary sings. She sings her great freedom song. She sings, and invites us to sing it too. Because God is here. God is with us. God is here.

Let us pray.

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