Sermon: We Wait With Peace
I remember the day Kathleen told me the good news that I was going to be a father. To be honest, that’s all I really remember. It was in the day. You'll have to ask Kathleen to fill in the rest of the details. It’s not that I have forgotten them, but I think in the initial shock those particular memories didn't stick.
I do however remember the pregnancy. Ten long, painful months of nausea, aches and pains, emotional instability that slowly became irrational irritability, and of course there was all the extra weight gain! And that was just me!
Again, Kathleen can tell you her side of the story. While I clearly developed all the symptoms of a sympathetic pregnancy I still have no clue of what women go through to bring life into God’s world. It’s impossible for me a man to truly speak of pregnancy.
Equally as challenging is trying to make sense of why the lectionary puts Mary’s song of joy in the week we celebrate the Advent of Peace.I am not sure if there is anything peaceful about the birth process. Or so I have been told on at least three occasions in my life.
However, like pregnancy, Advent is a time of waiting.And a time to prepare for your world that is about to be turned on its head. Nothing will be the same once the baby comes.
I know some of you have been waiting anxiously for this season to pass, while others are waiting expectantly to celebrate the coming birth of Christ.
It’s not always a happy holiday. This can be the time when all our sadness and grief weighs us down, making it difficult to move, or do anything. We wait and wait for the season to pass, but each day feels like it never ends.
Then there are some of us who...in spite of all the advertising, decorations and the multiple warnings by the church secretary,...are still surprised that the Christmas Eve service is only a few days away! And there is so much left to do. As the big day rapidly approaches...it's typical of me to panic, and lose focus. I often stand around... as nothing gets done...much like I did the ten long months my wife was pregnant.
Unlike Christmas, Fiona did not come on the day that we had marked on the calendar. No, she was two weeks late. By then, the Magi had come and gone, ...as did most of my hair. But that's my story.
Then there’s Mary's. I can’t imagine a less peaceful thing to happen to a person than to find out that they are pregnant, when the laws of nature and science would suggest otherwise. Her story is a mystery. It makes as much sense as the Stork in “Dumbo” who struggles to deliver a baby elephant to his mother on a moving train, in the rain, while drunk.
Our Christmas pageants always make Mary’s story out to be this beautiful, calm scene. In our consumer driven society, it’s easy for us to give this divine mystery a Disney makeover. Mary is not some carefree teenager from a royal family. She is a poor underage girl, who is unintentionally pregnant. She's living in a poverty stricken, military occupied country. By all accounts, she is without hope of a better life. And yet God chose her, the hopeless, to be Theotokos, my favorite Greek word, which means “God bearer.”
It's a shame that Protestants are so quick to dismiss her importance. Mary is the one figure who is with Jesus at nearly every pivotal moment of his life. How blessed is she who was chosen to carry God in utero. And thanks be to God that there was at least one person worthy of this calling.
In spite of how she is often depicted in paintings, Mary was probably between the ages of 10-12 years old. Given the customs of her day, the fact that she was still unmarried suggests she was most likely premenstrual. This makes the mystery that surrounds her calling that much more powerful.
Joseph was no knight in shining armor either. He too was probably a kid himself. He didn’t choose her any more than she chose him. There is a strong chance their relationship had been arranged at the time of their births. It is doubtful that there was any love, or physical attraction, just business as usual. Thus making it easier for Joseph to postpone the wedding until God’s work had been complete.
You may have noticed we skipped over verses 36-47. And in doing so we overlook how Luke carefully connects Mary’s pregnancy with that of her much older cousin, Elizabeth. As the two women visit one another, we realize that neither is good...for what the world says women are good for: having babies. One is too young, the other too old.
“And yet here they are a preteen and a matriarch in the maternity ward. And no man was necessary for this. Here at the greatest meeting of all time,...two women...counted worthless in most cultures...have their wombs honored and blessed by God’s presence. And so is it any wonder the scripture breaks into song?”
Perhaps this is a song we should all be singing with Mary. Through her, and through us, God is changing the world. And what a change God brings!
God triumphantly breaks through the birth canal, takes his first breath ... and begins to turn everything that we think we know, upside down. Our world will never be the same again.
Through the Incarnate birth God brings a kind of peace that still puzzles us today. It doesn’t favor one person or one country over another. It’s total shalom that is meant for all of creation to receive and give. This is what makes Mary’s song perfect for our Advent waiting. Especially as we celebrate Peace.
Mary sings of hope, especially to the poor and downtrodden, of how God’s purpose upsets the status quo. She sings with love to God who she embraces with all her faith. She sings because there’s new life in her. And new life for all of humanity.
Mary joyfully declares God’s reign over the world. Her song is a song of victory. A song of revolution. The only question we are faced with is are we ready to join this choir of faith? Are we ready to be God’s mother, to carry the peace of Christ within us?
Mary's song calls us all to be God’s mother, and to give birth to God’s perfect shalom through Jesus Christ. He is our perfect peace and wellbeing; making us spiritually alive and socially active.
We are all called to be God's mother, because God needs to be born everyday...in the way we care for one another, offering shelter, food, medicine, warmth, and love. Jesus is all we need to live as God intended since the beginning of time.
When Christ is in us, fear and darkness leave us; our hope and love collide with joy; and peace fills the Earth. Mary's song, the Magnificant, invites us to say yes to God, to sing, even if we are afraid...or don't know the words.
As we leave here today, as we move closer and closer towards the Christmas birth, let us all sing and dance like a teenager. For the King is here! “O Come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord!"
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An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”