Fourth Sunday of Advent - Making Room for Christ: "Song For People Who Can't Sing"


It's almost here.  Christmas that is.

It feels like we've been waiting for a while, doesn't it?

Some of us have been waiting in expectation--the kind of expectation that we used to feel when we were small.  For whatever reason, this year seems different, this year feels--special.

Some of us have been waiting in deep grief.  It's the first year without the loved ones we lost last year.  Or maybe it's the tenth.  This season brings none of the expectations and excitement that it used to.  We might feel snatches of joy, and perhaps a smile or two.  But our grief is always there, like a familiar unwelcome burden that aches our shoulders to carry, but we can't set it down.

Some of us have been waiting with dread.  Nothing has worked out like we planned.  Families are at odds, perhaps and we're dreading that dinner or that get together.  Maybe we plodded through everything we experienced so far checking things off of our list--just getting through everything with an air of weariness that permeates everything we do or say.

Some of us have been waiting with joy.  We can't wait for that gift to be given--the one that we know is perfect.  We are so excited about the whole family being here to dress up in read and green and come to church for candlelight.  We already have the Christmas music cued up, the firelogs ready to be lit and everything is sitting on go for unprecedented Christmas awesomeness...

However we are waiting... the wait is almost over.

At it's very essence, Advent is a about a moment.  It's about the moment when God announces God's divine intention to act decisively--to change everything, to redeem, restore and renew...

That, brothers and sisters, is a moment worth waiting for.  But each of waits for that moment, much like we wait for Christmas, in our own way.  Some of us feel expectant--that the world will be better, that things are going to be brighter...

Others of us are filled with deep grief--resigned to the fact that despite the encouraging words we hear from preachers or optimists... things are not getting better.  They are getting worse.

I think that there seems to be a general sense of pessimism in our culture, don't you think?  I think people would like to believe that there is hope.  But they feel like those who choose to see the world as a hope-filled place aren't really living in reality.

The reality we choose to embrace is always the one that feels the most real.

The good news for us is that God's idea of reality is far different.

In Luke 1:47-55 there is a song that is sung by the young girl, Mary after she accepts the invitation of God to bear the Son of God into the world.  Her song is  about a world that doesn't seem to really exist. But yet she sings the song as if it does--she sings the song as if the world is as it should be even though all indications are to the contrary.

Mary's song, also called the Magnificat goes like this:
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,48 for he has been mindful    of the humble state of his servant.From now on all generations will call me blessed,49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—    holy is his name.50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,    from generation to generation.51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones    but has lifted up the humble.53 He has filled the hungry with good things    but has sent the rich away empty.54 He has helped his servant Israel,    remembering to be merciful55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,    just as he promised our ancestors.”
This song is one of four like it that are placed in the mouths of women throughout the Bible:  Miriam, the prophetess and sister of Moses; Debroah, the judge; Hannah, the mother of Samuel and Mary.

Each of these songs is sung during critical times in Israel's history--times of oppression and liberation.  Miriam sings her song during the Exodus, Deborah during a time of battle, Hannah during a time of oppression by the Philistines and Mary during Roman occupation.

This is not a coincidence.  Each of these women is either a mother or mother-figure to a great, liberating, leader in Israel's history--culminating with Jesus himself, who came to liberate all of humankind.

One of the key words in this song comes in verse 48--the word tapeinosin which literally means humiliation, but in this instance means oppression, exploitation and misery.

Mary is responding to the great news that she just heard, the invitation that she just accepted.  Through her God is going to give birth to redemption.  The world is about to be turned upside down.  Her response is an awareness that God is acting, that things are already happening.  She speaks as if the redemption is already underway.  Scholars call this way of speaking, "prophetic perfect" tense.  In other words, the world is not as it should be, but she is speaking as if it is.  It's happened and is happening, and has yet to happen.  But there is certainty in all of it.

This is Mary's reality--the reality of both/and.  She is both a virgin and a mother.  She is lowly and exalted.  Redemption is both now and not yet.

The song she sings is a song of revolution--or of a turning around.  The poem is full of reversals.  The pride are laid low, the rich are turned away, the status quo is no longer the status quo.

Mary's song affirms her willingness to say yes to God, as we mentioned last week.  But it's more than that.  Because saying yes to God means saying no to the things that seek to diminish God's redemption in the world.

And Lord knows there are plenty of things to say no to...

Listen, the Lord's work, kingdom work, the hopeful expectation of a new world that is coming, but is already here is all about the arrival of a new heaven and a new earth--of a day when there will be no more sin, no more death--when God will wipe away all tears.  These are the things that do not belong in God's kingdom, these are the things that you say no to when you say yes to God...

Pride..
Greed...
Hatred...
Sexism...
Racism...
Disease...
Poverty...
Hunger...
Separation from others because of anger, resentment, differences and the like...

But this isn't just about doing good, trying to make all those things go away.  People have been trying to fix the world for a very long time, and the world just doesn't seem to want to be fixed, because it's full of people, and people suck. 

The only thing that will fix this world---is Jesus, God in the flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit.  But that doesn't mean that we get to sit on our hands and wait for Jesus to do his thing.  Not by a long shot. 

This isn't about doing good---what it's about is teaching people to sing.  

And we learn how to do this from Mary herself.  She sings a song for people who can't sing.  People who are waiting for things to change, for the world to get better.  People who are full of excitement, anticipation, grief, dread and joy.  

We wait.  And we can either wait in anxiety while we wait---we can wait in silence---rage---or fear... 

Or we can sing.  We can sing about a better world--even though the world is not yet what it will be.  We can sing about reversals of fortunes--where the lowly are lifted up and the proud and arrogant are brought down.  We can sing about a world that is free from all of the things that thwart the fully realized redemption of the world.  

I found this video the other day, and after I watched it, I cried like a baby.  






What would it look like if we lived this way?  What would it look like if we said yes to God and no to the things that aren't of God?  What would it look like if we sang like heaven had come to down to earth. 

Because it has.  

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