Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fourth Sunday in Advent: Do you know?

Readings for this Sunday: Micha 5:2-5a; Psalm 80:1-7; Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-55

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “Mary did you Know.”  Actually, I have lots of favorite Christmas carols and each of them is special in some way.  But this carol, it speaks to me:
Mary did you know that your Baby Boy would someday walk on water
Mary did you know that you Baby boy would save our sons and daughters….
Mary did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod
And when you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God.
Oh Mary did you know?[i]
Oh Mary did you Know?

We will hear on Christmas Eve the story of how the angel Gabriel came to Mary and announced that God had looked on her with favor and chosen her to be the mother of God with us – Jesus. 
How Mary was puzzled that she should be the one to have this child
        as much because she was an ordinary, poor woman
        as because she was not married.

To which the angel replied,
        the Holy Spirit will come to you,
        the power of God will cover you in God’s shadow,
        this child, born from a human mother – is the Son of God,
        this child, born to a poor ordinary couple, will be King of all,
        Nothing is impossible with God, who can cause an old woman way past childbearing age to conceive
o   Like Sarah
o   Like Hannah
o   Like your cousin Elizabeth

Mary did you know?

Mary goes to visit Elizabeth.  Who better to understand the inconceivable?  Who better to
believe the unbelievable? 

Who better to share her good news with - someone else who has experienced the power of God in her life.

If Mary didn’t know, Elizabeth certainly tells her
        My unborn child recognized Who the child you are carrying is,
        My child leaps for joy at the sound of your voice,
        Mary did you know you are blessed?
        Mary did you know you are carrying God’s son?
Mary bursts into song.  Praising God for what God has done for her.  But her song quickly changes to praising God for what God has done, is doing, and will do for the world:
        God’s everlasting mercy throughout the centuries;
        Casting down the proud and powerful;
o   Lifting up the poor and oppressed;
        Filling the hungry with good things;
o   Sending those who are rich and satisfied with the status quo away empty;
        Remembering God’s promise to bring salvation, reconciliation, re-creation:
o   Her child, decedent of Abraham will bless the world
o   Her child, from the line of King David, is the Prince of Peace.
No doubt about it - Mary did know how God had drawn her into God’s redeeming, re-creating activity in the world.
There are lots of songs sung at Christmas time.  When we sing, do we know how God draws us into God’s reconciling, re-creating activity in the world?
 People do you know, that Mary’s Child has come to make you new?
People do you know that the Son of God is God’s sign of love for you?
People do you know that this baby boy brings God’s grace and love to earth,
And you’re called to live God’s story, as you sing about his birth?
Oh People do you know?
People do you know? [ii]

That when you sing “Joy to the World,” God works joy in your heart, drawing you into joyful anticipation for that day when “No more let sin and sorrow reign and thorns infest the ground.”  That God comes again through you to make “God’s blessings known, far as the curse is found.”

That when you sing “What child is this?” the marvel of God come in human flesh, God with us, born in a humble stable that night long ago becomes even more marvelous as the realization seeps into you that Jesus still comes to us, still lives in us, is still with us – through you!

That when you sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “the hopes and fears of all the years,” the hope and fear of today are given voice, are lifted to God once again, and God once again answers those hope and fears with love and grace and mercy.

That when you sing, “It came upon a midnight clear,”  you join the angels’ song, singing “Peace on earth, God’s mercy and favor is shown to those who are crushed by life, who are burdened and weary,” and suddenly you understand that the angels’ have come to you, to tell you that you are blessed, that you have found favor with God and that you are sent as a messenger from God to proclaim peace, to reveal God’s love for the world.

That when you sing “O come thou long expected Jesus,” you are singing Jesus into your heart, into your very being so that Jesus birthed in your soul can continue God’s reconciling, re-creating activity in a world that needs to be set free, to be released from fear, to be restored to right relationship (freed from sin) with God and each other, to bring hope and peace and joy and love?
That each Christmas we sing, because we are pregnant with Mary[iii]
        pregnant with the possibilities inherent in our God with whom nothing is impossible
        as a pregnant woman carries her unborn child, we carry Jesus, speaking for him, breathing his love into our world,
        anxiously awaiting God’s promise of hope, joy, peace and love, the  birth of a world changed.
That’s the song we sing at Christmas. 
           That’s the song we sing all year long.

We join in Mary’s song.
      (Sing “the Canticle of Turning”)

[i] Lyrics by Mark Lowry.

[ii] From here on out this sermon is directly influenced by David Lose’s thoughts for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, Dear Working Preacher,

[iii] Thanks to Terri at “Seeking Authentic Voice” for including the Caryll Houselander quote that talks about how we birth God to the world in her sermon for this Sunday. It’s a great sermon, and I wish I wrote it.  You can read it at:

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