Advent 4 – December 24, 2017

Rev. Lyle McKenzie      Lutheran Church of the Cross of Victoria

2 Sam. 7:1-11, 16; Luke 1:46b-55; Rom. 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

This unusual year, with the fourth Sunday of Advent on the 24th of December, with Christmas Eve Candlelight worship tonight and Christmas morning Holy Communion tomorrow, all within these 25 hours, we can uniquely see the connectedness of these stories, or this one story of God’s wonderful, mysterious, gritty, gracious joining with humanity and creation to save us all.

I’ve not been sure if I am writing one sermon in three parts or three sermons that are all of one part. I’m not settled yet

– Part 1/sermon 1, Mary, Gabriel, Mary’s willingness and song of hope in God’s overcoming and overturning the world;

– Part 2/sermon 2, Mary, Joseph, the birth of Jesus; angels, shepherds and the good news of great joy in God’s saviour child

– Part 3/sermon 3, Word of/with God, light and life, with John the witness and all who believe children of God, in Word made flesh living among us as God’s glorious child, full of grace and truth.

What does each part or the whole together tell us, God’s unfolding plan to mend the universe, mysterious and impossible as it is, is made possible by the openness and willingness of ordinary people to follow their hearts and seek God’s desire in the one who is grace and truth in the flesh, here, now, always.

Today’s story feels close. Today we honour and celebrate Mary, a young woman, no doubt vulnerable in her time, like many women remain in our time. We celebrate her courage to hear the angel, to question the impossibility of what God’s messenger is saying will happen, to listen and remain open, and to consent to God’s will with her body and her life in the hope of seeing God’s overcoming, overturning, overwhelming salvation realized for her and for her people. And to sing with joy for the future and the hope it holds.

Critics have argued Mary’s submission is another story of a young woman in her purity as a virgin, used to fulfill the desire of a patriarchal God and perpetuate a women’s role in pregnancy and childbirth for the sake of men and God. This is harsh criticism, but holds truth in the way the story has been and still is told and used for this oppressive purpose.

Part of what makes the story close is how very aware we are that this oppression, especially in sexualized violence against women, continues in our world for so many women and when, as in every time, one is too many. This needs to remain our deep concern, as we believe it is God’s deep concern.

But the Mary or God of the story is not passive and over powered or overpowering. This story along with others in the first chapter of Luke, are about God’s mysterious and wonderful encountering of God’s ordinary people, not the powerful and most wealthy, but the elderly like Elizabeth in her sixth month, the young, the women, blessing them and inviting them into the unfolding of God’s plan to overturn the world and save humanity from self-destruction.

The first reading has this interesting connection to these themes today, King David settled in his house of cedar, wants to build a great house of cedar for God. But the prophet Nathan hears God’s word that as God has remained in a tent dwelling with the people from the time of their release from slavery in ancient Egypt up to God’s protecting and making a home for David and the people now, so God will remain dwelling with the people, with them, not apart from them, says the Lord.

And God continues to dwell with God’s people, even more in the child of Mary’s womb, child of God dwelling with humanity forever in the flesh and in Spirit and truth.

And it is especially good and right that we celebrate Mary today, and sing her song, and honour her courage and faith to hear and follow God’s will with her body and life, for the life of the world. That we have Mary, a young peasant woman, at the heart of the Christian story, courageous follower of God, mother of the God child Jesus, God in flesh, to live among us, to embrace humanity, in suffering and death and to redeem humanity in new risen life, is God’s gift, Mary’s gift that opens every life, especially the lowly life, the powerless life, the voiceless life, all our lives, to God’s encountering us, wonderful and mysterious, inviting us to have the same courage, to have the same hope, to trust and to follow our hearts to seek the overcoming, overturning, ways of God for ourselves and the world God loves. Mary’s faith becomes ours, “Let it be with me according to your word.” Mary’s song, our song…

“My Soul proclaims your greatness, O God, and my Spirit Rejoices in you. You have looked with love on your servant here and blessed me all my life through…”

We sang another version of Mary’s song at the Ordination of Aneeta Saroop this past Tuesday, “The Canticle of the Turning.” that we will also sing this morning. As some of you know who were able to be there, it was a great day of celebration and connections. In the sermon, the theme, “It takes a village… to raise a child of God, …to raise God’s anointed, …to ordain a Pastor, celebrated those connections in the  Baptismal Anniversary Day for Aneeta, Eric and Maya, in that same village of Grace 18 years before – people who supported her faith and life journey from that day; to entering seminary at a distance in 2010 with Thomas and their children and a village of so many others in support and receiving the same from them up to this day; and the village of St. Mary’s Anglican, Metchosin who have called her to serve them as a Lutheran Pastor – all of it overcoming, overturning, and overwhelming at times, but by the Spirit inviting openness and willingness to follow their hearts and God’s desire and to see God’s purpose realized; And all of this by the saving grace of the one whose birth story we celebrate tonight and tomorrow, and beginning this morning, with Mary, whose life and faith opens and invites all of us to follow our hearts and in this same faith, sing Mary’s song of hope for all the world in God’s overcoming, overturning and overwhelming love, in the one soon to be born anew for all, Jesus, the Christ. Amen.