Gospel: Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]
39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” [
46And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Sermon for the 4th Sunday in Advent (after the Paper Bag Pageant)
Christmas Pageants are a time-honored church tradition. And perhaps one we idealize in the same way when we aim for a hallmark Christmas each year, with everything decorated just so, choreographed and picture perfect. But if that’s our purpose, we’ve missed the point. Sure it’s wonderful to have kids involved in worship – that’s always a goal of mine. Some of them enjoy being the center of attention more than others; some are a little outside their comfort zone. But this is a safe place to do that too. However I realized that we do these things so that our children can see themselves in the story of God. In the good news of Jesus Christ. They can fit right in, with a little hat or some fairy wings, and be at home right in the middle of the story that changed the world. And then when they know they are at home in that story. Then maybe later, they’ll see God in their story. When their story changes the world, they’ll see Gods part in it.
Mary and Elizabeth were two unlikely women who had God show up in the middle of their story in an unexpected way. Mary, nearly too young and Elizabeth nearly too old, God was about the change the world through their children. They knew the stories about how God had acted to save in the past. They knew what God had carried their people through, and they knew God had promised to do it again. Make sure your kids and grandkids know the stories. And can see themselves in the stories. Read bible stories together and then ask them which character they see themselves as that day. And tell them what character you think you are. Just start there. If you don’t have a children’s bible, I’ll get you one for free. Start with the nativity story and go from there – or tell the stories of Abraham and the three strangers, the stories of Noah and the Flood, tell the Old Testament stories and then the stories of Jesus and his disciples. Tell the stories of women too – Miriam, and Deborah, and Ruth, Phoebe and Lydia.
Mary was raised on the stories of her people. No doubt this must have played a part in shaping who she was. The stories in what we call the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible are her people. The stories of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, Jacob and Rachel, and so many more including that of Hannah and Samuel were ones passed on to her long before her fateful encounter with the angel which brought her the unexpected news of her pregnancy. Mary recalls Hannahs song and adds her own self into the verses as she runs to her cousins house. Let the church at least be sanctuary for those trying to figure out where they fit into God’s story. Let it be a safe place for those who might be a little too loud, or a little too messy. Let us continue to tell the old old story – and encourage those who sing new verses to the song. Amen.