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December 15, 2013
“God Bearers”

Rev. Barbara Lorbach

Luke 1:46b-55 (NRSV)


     It is the 3rd Sunday of Advent—the Sunday we light the rose candle for joy and the Sunday we often remember Mary. We know Mary’s story, but how often do we really think about what Mary experienced. Imagine you are 14 or 15 and a girl—a girl in a culture that doesn’t much favor girls. You are valuable in the sense that your father can engage you to a hopefully wealthy and usually older man. Not to say that Mary’s father didn’t love her—it was just the way things were done in ancient times.      Luke says Mary is visited by an angel who tells her she is going to have a child and the child will be the long awaited Messiah. Mary asks how this can be. The angel says she has found favor with God and with God all things are possible. Mary tells the angel “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Sounds pretty mature and matter of fact. But when the angel is gone, Mary leaves town—I can understand that. “Hey Mom and Dad, I’m going to see Cousin Elizabeth” all the while wondering how in the world she is going to explain this. And what will she tell Joseph?      Even in a culture that would accept this angel’s tale, there was also the very real problem that the law had been violated. Joseph could have Mary stoned to death for breaking the prenuptial covenant. Don’t you wonder what Mary thought about on the journey to Elizabeth’s? Would she return home or run farther away? When she arrives, Elizabeth, who is pregnant, says her child leaps in the womb. And she says, “Blessed is she who has believed what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” And here is Mary’s response as told by Luke:
MESSAGE:

46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 


     These words are known as the Magnificat—the song of Mary, this young girl about to embark on a journey that no one could imagine. How could she sing of rejoicing and praising God? This young Jewish girl was deeply nurtured in her faith. She knew the stories told of a Messiah who would one day come and redeem God’s people—her people. She knew of the God of Abraham and Jacob who was to be trusted. She had been taught that with God all things are possible, even this. And she believed that somehow God was about to use her to bring the world hope.

     Mary describes this God of mercy and strength who brings down the powerful and lifts up the lowly, fills the hungry and sends the rich away empty. Mary knew of poverty and hunger. She knew the Messiah would bring a new way—a way of peace and a way of sharing the world’s resources. And even though she did not know what tomorrow would bring, she trusted God.

     The power of this story is in Mary’s response to God and what God seeks to do in her life. Despite what must have been a shocking revelation, Mary comes to that powerful place of acceptance as she responds saying, “Let it be with me according to your will.” Mary’s response is incredible. She offers us an example of how we too might respond to God’s surprises in our own life. Can we let it be? So often, we need to know and be in control. Can we simply let it be? Without seeking to control or glamorize or add or overanalyze, can we just let the story be what it is this Christmas? Can we allow God to say what needs to be said through this simple birth? Can we step back in the awe and wonder of a child and ponder these things in our hearts? Can we allow God to do what God needs to do with us, in us, and through us? Can we pause long enough to listen for our own angelic messengers and God’s call to us?

     God whispers to us in every encounter, inviting us to be midwives in God’s creative birthing of our world. When Mary asks “How can this be?” the angel says “nothing will be impossible with God.” How often I find myself thinking just the opposite. The problem is too big, the dragons too fierce, the rhetoric too hateful—it is impossible. The story tells us Mary was willing to believe that nothing would be impossible with God—“with” God, not “for” God. “With” God implies that God needs us—the earth angels—to be God’s partners in making the impossible possible.

     A hungry child prayed earnestly one Christmas for food and toys, but nothing happened. She related her prayers to a friend, who asked with a sneer, “What happened to this God of yours? Why didn’t he hear and answer your prayers?” To that the child answered simply, “Oh, I am sure he heard me and told someone to bring me a Christmas gift, but I guess they just forgot.”* There is more than childish simplicity in her reply. The problems in the world are not the fault of God, but are because we, humankind, do not do our part “with” God.

     Like Mary, we are called to be partners with God. God has chosen each of us, favored each of us, graced each of us, and spoken God's Word to each of us. By the power of God's Spirit, God has descended upon us and conceived the Christ, the Messiah, in us. Like Mary, you and I are God bearers, an identity and vocation that brings with it extraordinary privileges, significant hardships, and enormous burdens. But the promise remains the same: no matter the hardships or impossibilities this graced vocation may bring in life, nothing is impossible with God.

          When I find myself in times of trouble,
          Mother Mary comes to me,
          Speaking words of wisdom,
          Let it be.
          And in the hour of darkness,
          She is standing right in front of me, 
          Speaking words of wisdom,
          Let it be.

          Let it be, let it be, Let it be, let it be,
          Whisper words of wisdom, Let it be.

          And when the broken-hearted people,
          Living in the world agree,
          There will be an answer,
          Let it be.
          For though they may be parted,
          There is still a chance that they will see,
          There will be an answer, 
          Let it be.

          Let it be, let it be, Let it be, let it be,
          There will be an answer, Let it be.

          Let it be, let it be, Let it be, let it be,
          Whisper words of wisdom, Let it be.

          And when the night is cloudy,
          There is still a light that shines on me,
          Shine until tomorrow,
          Let it be.
          I wake up to sound of music,
          Mother Mary comes to me,
          Speaking words of wisdom,
          Let it be.

          Let it be, let it be, Let it be, let it be,
          There will be an answer, Let it be.

          Let it be, let it be, Let it be, let it be,
          Whisper words of wisdom, Let it be.