Sermon for SMHP, Year B, Advent IV, Dec. 24, 2017
46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48who has looked with favor on the lowliness of the servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is God’s name.
50God’s mercy is for those who fear the Lord from generation to generation.
51God has shown strength with God’s arm; The Lord has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
53God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
54God has helped God’s servant Israel, in remembrance of God’s mercy,
55according to the promise made to our ancestors, to Abraham and Sarah and their descendants forever.”
26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.37For nothing will be impossible with God.”38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Every Sunday in December, we have sung those words. Words which we have sung before this December, to be certain, because that hymn, “The Canticle of the Turning” is a favorite for many here at St. Mark Hope and Peace.
We’ve been singing that hymn, and we’ve been saying the Magnificat together, and we’ve leaned in to the promise that the world is, indeed, about to turn. At a time when it is challenging for many of us to believe that God is going to turn the world, away from selfishness and sin and toward love and justice.
We’re working on believing it, right? Because believing is what we do. And because we know that God can turn the world even when the world seems bent on its own destruction.
We know that God broke into the world at a time when God’s people were despairing, living under oppression, economic injustice, the constant threat of war. God broke into that world--became incarnate in that world, in order that the world might turn, back toward love of neighbor—all neighbors. And that world received the greatest prophet, the wisest rabbi, and the kindest humanitarian it has ever known.
All wrapped up in one person.
God did that then. Turned the world through one remarkable child born to two remarkable parents.
God turned the world!
And we know that the world will turn again.
If we have been paying attention, we even know how.
The world will turn when there are people willing to answer as Mary did: “let it be with me according to your word.”
They will be ordinary people—we know that too. The ones whom God calls to turn the world are not usually kings, or captains of industry, or winners of awards. God calls people like Mary—a maiden from Nazareth. And shepherds, and other ordinary folk: Abraham, Samuel, Esther, Martin Luther, Katie Luther, Dorothy Day.
God calls people who have been set apart not by wealth, not by power…but by their willingness to say “Here I am” when God calls their names.
The world will turn—our world will turn, when enough people follow Mary and the shepherds in saying “Here I am” when God calls.
Refugees need homes and jobs?
“Here I am.”
Kid being bullied at school?
“Here I am.”
Injustice and inequality running rampant? The voiceless need someone to speak for them?
“Here I am.”
Bear the likeness of God for all the world?
“Here. I. am.”
And that is what do while we wait for God to turn our world. We don’t wait passively. Christians are called to be pacifists, not passive(ists). We wait clothed in the words of Mary, mother of us all: Let it be with me according to your word.
Because the world turns when each of us attends to the change that needs to be made in us.
Institutions turn when the people who make up the institution decide to live according to a word of love and justice.
Neighborhoods turn when individual neighbors decide to work together for the good of all.
While we wait for our world to turn from a path of destruction back toward the gospel of love and peace, we bear God’s likeness to everyone we meet. We allow incarnation to live in us. We provide a living witness to God’s power at work in us, at work in our world, and working slowly in the hearts of those who natter on about keeping Christ in Christmas while striking his witness from every other aspect of life. We love them too, love them so hard they can’t help but see the power and grace that God has showered on them, that God calls us to shower on each other—including our neighbors who are brown and poor and disabled. Especially our neighbors who are brown and poor and disabled.
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Let that be our mantra…this Adventmas Eve and always. And let us keep watch, dear friends…for the world is about to turn.