Third Sunday of Advent: Upside Down


This is the Third Sunday of the Season of Advent, and we are one more step closer to the promise of Christmas Eve, and the arrival of the Messiah.  During this season of expectation, it's time for another unexpected turn... 

A pregnant teenage girl who sings a song for the ages... 

Like last week, I'm doing things a bit differently today with the sermon so we're going to start with what I want us to hold on to as we journey together today. 

Here it is:  Only God can make everything right side up by turning everything upside down. 

Let's read Luke 1:46b-55: 

46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
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 merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

This song is traditionally known by a Latin term, "The Magnificat."  It's a song for an upside-down Gospel.  We'll get to that in a moment.  

Think with me for a moment about your favorite Christmas song---you know the one that has been playing in your head for the past couple of weeks.  Have you been signing it?  

Please tell me it's not the Mariah Carey song... although I've heard a metal version of that song that is just amazing.  

Bear with me for a moment.  Why does that song mean something to you?  Is it connected to a memory... an emotion... a feeling?  Maybe now more than ever, right?

That's what this song that Mary sings is all about.  It's a song about memory and hope.  It's a song that comes from a place deep within her soul, and consequently the soul of anyone who steps into that moment and sings it with her, like we have today. 

Here's a bit of the background on that song.  

Mary sings it right after she is told by the angel Gabriel that she is going to give birth to the Messiah of the world.  And she's not married.  And she could be executed for cuckolding Joseph the guy she's engaged to.  And she's a teenager.  

She decides to go visit the one person who might have some insight into miraculous pregnancies, her cousin Elizabeth.  Story of Elizabeth. 

Then Mary sings.  

She sings a song that is for anyone who has chafed under oppression, gone through trials, suffered loss---and for all those who fear the world can't or won't change.  

Her song remembers what God has done for God's people, and portends that God is going to always show up in unexpected ways right at the right moment when all seems lost.  And even to a weary world that feels as though all is lost.  

And that this God will do whatever it takes to turn the world upside down in order to get what God ultimately wants, which is for God's shalom to be fully present, permeating all aspects of Creation and us along with it.  

So what can we do in the midst of our own context to align ourselves with God's upside-down vision?

We have to recalibrate our view of what is "right side up" to begin with.  That is going to take effort on our part because we have been programmed otherwise.  The world around us values quite the opposite.  

It might mean that we have to give up our control... our power... our privilege... to admit that we are powerless.  

We also can't be afraid to sing our song.  Each of us has a song to sing about how God has been present in our past.  But some of these songs are ones that we can sing together---that we must sing together.  

And we need to be willing to trust that God is going turn everything upside down to make everything right... and to acknowledge that there are some things that only God will be able to make right.  

This doesn't get us off the hook---quite the contrary, it places the onus squarely on us to live faithfully---to pray as if it all depends on us, and to work as it if all depends on God.  

We have good news to sing---you and me.  So let's sing it.  

Only God can make everything right side up by turning everything upside down. 


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