This final Sunday in Advent is often the day many worshipping communities replace preaching with a pageant of the coming birth of Jesus. In doing so, we miss the magnificence of God working through Mary. We reduce Mary’s role to that of a cute young girl holding a baby doll. We rush to opening the present of Jesus’ birth, missing out on the announcement and Mary’s song of prophetic proclamation.
- Today is not about the birth of Jesus, we wait another week for that.
- Today is about God adding a young teenage girl to God’s and our story.
- Today is all about mystery and intrigue, an angel and an unexpected pregnancy, and uncertainty and change beyond our comprehension.
The story of the coming of Jesus begins with the out of this world announcement by Gabriel to Mary that she’s pregnant and will be the mother of the Son of God.
- This announcement is shocking, is a big deal for believers and deal breaker for doubters.
- This announcement has been pondered for centuries, its details interpreted by theologians, hymn writers, and artists.
- This announcement story is about God’s magnificence and miraculous entering into our story.
The story is about God loving us so much that God comes to us, in human form, to live among us, to love and forgive us in person. And the story is about God using Mary’s body and voice to proclaim and then deliver the One who will save us from ourselves and the world.
Mary’s role as ‘God-bearer’ is critical not because of her accepting to be Jesus’ mom, but because of how God works through her. God speaks through her actions and words in Luke, birthing the Word made flesh, the one who will dwell among us. Mary tells us about God’s promises for those who wait through heartfelt song. She proclaims as prophets do what God is up to in the world. That God will meet us where we are through God’s self in the form of a son, named Jesus.
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We who wait for the Lord, heard Mary’s song as our psalm today. Mary sings as a prophet telling of what this Jesus, God with us, the fully divine and fully human one that she will give birth to what he will do for our weary world. Mary’s song proclaims for us her joy, not so much in being chosen by God, or in the anticipation of the birth of her first child, but rather what will happen because of this holy child’s coming into the world.
- A broken and beaten world, bloodied by weapons and economic oppression,
- A world where the victors took the spoils by forcing, raping and pillaging,
- A world that longed for a king to turn things around, a messiah to save them.
The world was about to change by the one for whom we wait. In Luke’s Gospel the one is called by many names:
- Jesus, the name Mary is told to give him,
- The Savior of the World,
- The Prince of Peace,
- The Messiah or Christ.
Mary proclaims that he will be called the Son of God in our reading, but before Gabriel is sent to break the news, or the Holy Spirit comes upon her, or the Most High overshadows her… long before Jesus the Christ was ever conceived, there was another proclaimed “Son of God.”
Throughout the history of the Roman Empire, the Emperor Caesar was seen as a divine. In fact Caesar the Augustus was declared and believed by the Romans to be “Son of God,” “Savior of the World” and “Prince of Peace.” The infamous peace of the Roman Empire, Pax Romana had been brought about, as all empires from ancient times to the United States today have, by brute force.
- Peace through might.
- Peace through bloodshed.
- Peace at the end of a sword, or AK-47, or threat of atomic or economic annihilation.
So Mary was proclaiming a familiar sounding Christ, Savior, Prince of Peace… and while the peace on earth, goodwill to all that Mary foretells in song and action might sound familiar to the empire, it will turn it on its head. But for you and me, citizens of another time, place and empire… what will the difference between the “Peace on Earth” bought with American military and economic force and the Lord for whom Mary sings and we wait, what will the return of Jesus, God breaking into our world again mean in our broken and weary world?
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But Pastor Bill I don’t want to confront our sins as individuals or as a nation… I just want a perfect Christmas, more Holiday than Holy Day. I want to sing Christmas Carols and look at Baby Jesus. I want a cute Christmas Pageant and lots of presents and well sure I want peace on earth, but I want it my way! And that is exactly why we continue to wait this day, impatiently and selfishly wanting to get to our commercial Christmases and avoid the Gospel that convicts us of our sins and proclaims good news by pointing beyond the babe in clean swaddling clothes to the bloody mess of a world we live in.
The mystery, magnificence and majesty of this day is in spending time looking at a pregnant, unwed teenage girl, at the surprise on Mary’s face, at the pondering and wondering and waiting. God loves us so much, that the world is turned upside down not by might but by mystery. By peace that comes through blood and messiness, not at the end of sword or threat, but by God who humbled God’s Self to be born into our human reality,
- to meet us where we are,
- to teach us that love is justice,
- to show us that victory is won not on the battlefield, but on the Cross.
Many long for peace on earth, but want to skip over the justice part as long as they get their piece of the pie, a sense of peace at the expense of the other, but peace without justice is not peace, it is oppression. The peace we wait for hasn’t changed much from the times of the prophets Amos, Micah and Isaiah when economic and political oppressions reigned. And today those ancient prophetic proclamations of God’s will—that justice is really for all, is what Mary and we are called to share with the world that longs for peace.
True peace isn’t bloodless. But the only blood that is shed for true peace
- is the blood shed in the birth of the child born to Mary,
- is the blood shed by that child upon the cross that we sent him to,
- is the blood of the new promise of God shed for you and all people for the forgiveness of sin.
Jesus the Christ, our Savior and Lord, is the One for whom we wait, the One who came and promises to come again… to establish true peace that will make our hearts sing!
- May that day come soon and very soon.
- May the fires of God’s justice burn in you.
- May you praise the coming grace, love and peace that God brings to us through Mary, the mother of Our Lord.
And may you too fear not, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn. Amen