Sermon 12-14-97

Leap for Joy

Luke 1:39-45 year c


It was my privilege and joy to watch my daughter, Elizabeth, carry our first grandchild this past summer. I can so easily remember what it was like to be awakened in the middle of the night by her movement many years ago, when I carried Beth in my womb. And I can still vividly remember my fears and anxiety - I can also remember that the fears were offset by my growing attachment for the child growing inside of me and by my own sense of expectation. And I can remember my feelings of not wanting any of those moments to be forgotten - I didn't want to toss away those deep and primal feelings after the baby was born - I remember my prayer to God that I be able to keep those newly discovered emotions fresh and alive in my heart always... They were so precious to me....

When I found that I was expecting my last child my feelings were a bit different - I wondered how, at a much more advanced age - I would manage to find the energy I would need to care for an infant as well as be a mom to two active teen-agers. But as the days progressed I realized that once again, my anticipation of the coming child helped to alleviate my fears - Once again, I was pregnant with expectation.

Imagine Mary - young and not yet married - Scared and alone -, - seeking support and affirmation - traveling alone to the hill country to her relative Elizabeth - and I have the feeling that she was surprised by all that she received from Elizabeth that day....

The Holy spirit filled Elizabeth - and the child in her womb - who would become John the Baptist - leaped for joy in her womb - and she praises God and offers Mary her blessing.... confirming all that Mary had been told by the angel Gabrielle.

It was a moment that must have filled Mary with the joy of expectation. What a relief after living only with fear and dread.

That is what Advent is all about - the joy of expectation - it is about our living as though with God anything is possible. - in spite of the darkness in our lives. But how do we do that - live joyously, praising God - in the midst of fears that threaten to overwhelm us? The answer to that question is about our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

When I was preparing to preach I decided that I could avoid the dilemma posed by the song of praise, The Magnificat, that Mary sings in the passage that follows the one we read for our scripture reading. Mary's song details God's plans for the poor and the powerful and it doesn't look like good news. I preached on it last year and successfully avoided the difficulty of the text at that time - I have to admit that I still wasn't willing to tackle it this year - because it always feels as though, as a comfortable American I am on the wrong side of this song of praise - I am not poor - I am not one of the down trodden - waiting for the Lord to intervene - When I look into my heart I have to admit - I like my life the way it is - I don't really want the powerful to be brought down - because I land on the wrong side of that equation.

Like I said - I thought I could avoid this - but I was wrong. because it is about our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

let me read a version of the magnificat put in the words of a Chilean Woman

With pride and dignity I sing my song of joy

when I feel the lord's presence;

I am poor and very ordinary,

but one day the Lord looked upon me

And the history of the Poor

will give witness to my joy.

God is unfettered and unpredictable,

He is called our great friend.

And throughout our history

He has favored those of us who are weak.

His triumph force

shows itself each day when

He exposes the foolishness of the powerful.

He uncovers the feet of clay of those in power,

and nourishes the yearning of the poor.

To those who come hungry

He gives bread and wind.

And to the wealthy

He exposes their selfishness

and the emptiness of their ways.

This is God's desire:

always to favor the poor. By a Chilean Woman from Soul Weavings

Now we can walk. Lyn Klug. Ed.

He is faithful to His promises. Augsberg Fortress.

- God exposes the foolishness of the powerful, God uncovers the feet of clay of those in power -

These were the lines that caught my attention. -

Power, - Power in terms of have and have not - resources that can be exchanged for the things we want or need and also Power in terms of wanting to believe that we are in control of our destiny - making certain that our lives go as we plan.

The world helps us to make assumptions about power. We think that either you have power or you don't - So If The powerless are raised to a position of power, we - the powerful - will loose our power. Some have it - others don't. we can't all have it.

But what if we look at power through God's eyes - As Christians we would have to admit that we believe that the power is in God's hands. So - in reality we are all on equal footing - right - we are all the poor - the powerless.

At some point in every life comes a moment of recognition - We need help - we cannot control the outcome of every situation in our lives. We are going to face what we fear most, pain, suffering, illness, even death. We can't keep these things at bay. And when we come face to face with our vulnerability we find that we need God - But we have feet of clay. It is hard to begin to trust God when you have no experience with it. We haven't needed to bother with establishing that personal relationship .

Those of us in power believe that we have power.... our foolishness.

People on the opposite end of the power spectrum have a much clearer understanding - They realize that they have no power and believe it or not that is their advantage. The disadvantaged - the hungry and poor have had to rely on God all along - They have an intimate relationship with God.

Mary can live with her fear because of her expectation that God will offer her salvation - Mary's song acknowledges her situation and her realization that those in power will eventually bow to God - In God's eyes we are all on equal ground - Those who accept God's help will know that they are lifted up - sustained and nourished by the help of the lord. They know where their strength and salvation comes from.

Last Sunday my family and I as the guests of friends, went to Radio City Music Hall to see the Christmas Spectacular - with the Rockettes and the glitz and glamour. It was something I had never seen - and had always secretly hoped that I would get a chance to see. It was great - I loved it - But I was surprised to find out that it included the nativity as a part of the whole spectacular event. As the actors on the stage acted out the Christmas story - and friends that the church put on the same kind of a show for the Christmas pageant complete with live donkeys, I found my fears about this text being replaced with an "ahhhhhhhh" kind of feeling. Mary and Joseph and Jesus were elevated on the stage - when the shepherds and the kings arrived. There were the shepherds and the kings - the lowly and the powerful - looking up at Jesus - from the stage below - and then they bowed down -

There is good news in this passage - That Baby - sent by God - the Holy Infant - came down to dwell in our hearts - to be our guide - to walk with us - Believe this good news - it is for you - Today is the day to open your heart and your life to Jesus Christ. A light in the darkness waits for you - that you might know the joy of hope - that you might live with the joy of expectation - With God, All things are possible. - Christmas is coming - Amen.