Rev. George Miller
Dec 9, 2012
Today we continue our Advent journey through the Gospel of Luke. If you haven’t realized it by now, Luke is a writer of great skill whose story involves boundary breaking inclusiveness.
The author is a light-bearing witness for Christ who is taking the Jesus experience and completely opening it up, going beyond the people of the covenant to all four corners of the world.
He wants to shows us how Jesus came to minister to the rainbow of all God’s people.
Not just the Jews, but the gentiles. Not just the rich, but the poor. Not just the local, but the foreign born. Not just men, but women.
For Luke, Jesus truly is the Bread of Life and everyone is welcome to experience just how joyfully tasty life can be, no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey.
But before we get too serious, have you heard about the latest recent archeological discovery? It seems they have unearthed an ancient copy of the Old Testament.
The shocking thing about it is that it features a different version of the Creation story in which Eve, not Adam, is created first.
It says that one day in the Garden of Eden, Eve called out to God, "Lord, I have a problem!"
"What's the problem, Eve?"
"Lord, I know you created me and provided this beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals and that hilarious comedic snake, but I'm just not happy."
"Why is that, Eve?"
"You see, all the animals are paired off. The ewe has a ram and the cow has her bull. All the animals have a mate except me. I feel so alone. Lord, I am lonely, and I'm sick to death of apples."
"You know what Eve, you’re right. I have a solution. I shall create a mate for you and he will be called a man."
"What's a man?" Eve asked.
"A man is a ruggedly handsome but flawed creature, with many bad traits.”
“He'll be vain and glorious; he'll be witless and revel in childish things like fighting and kicking a ball about.”
“He won't be too smart, so he'll need your advice to think properly."
“But he'll also be big and fast and he will like to fish and hunt and kill things so you can have tasty food to eat.”
“He’ll be easy on the eyes, great to cuddle up with at night and wake up to in the morning.”
"Sounds great," says Eve, with an ironically raised eyebrow. "What's the catch?"
"Well... you can have him on one condition."
"What's that, Lord?"
"As I said, he'll be proud, arrogant, and self-admiring... So you'll have to let him believe that I made him first. Just remember, it's our
“…You know, woman to woman."
I share this joke with no disrespect to men but to lighten the mood and to set the tone because today our story does not focus on a man, as so many stories do, but on a female: Mary, the mother of Christ.
Luke has continued his slow, deliberate telling of the story. It’s six months after the angel has appeared to Zechariah and Elizabeth has become pregnant with John.
In today’s portion of his tale, the angel Gabriel visits Mary, calls her the favored one, and assures her of God’s presence.
Mary ponders what this means. She is told to not be afraid, to know that in due time she will have a child whose kingdom will be eternal. Her son will be named Jesus.
“How can this be?” Mary asks, possibly seeking assurance and comfort.
After the angel explains, telling her about Elizabeth, reminding her that nothing is impossible with God, Mary responds “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Luke has set the stage for hope to enter into our world. But let’s pause and take a moment to ask about this Mary person.
What do we know about her?
Scholars have their own opinions. She is a peasant girl who lives in Nazareth, a small, tiny town of ill-refute in Galilee.
She is engaged to be married, most likely still living at home with her parents. She is probably between the ages of 12 and 13.
Mary appears to be in a state of in-between: not yet a wife, not much longer a daughter.
Not yet a woman, not much longer a girl.
Still a virgin, but soon to be a mother.
Anything else we can gather? A close reading of Luke 1 and 2 reveals to us a few adjectives.
Mary is referred to as being favored (1:30), thoughtful (1:29; 2:19 & 51), obedient (1:38), believing (1:45), worshipful (1:46), devoted to Jewish law and piety (2:22-51).
These are all well and good. But they all seem so, so serious…
What about Mary being joyful???
Why does Mary have to be portrayed so serious, pious and reverent? Can’t she also be someone who is playful with a twinkle in her eye?
There is a beauty to Luke’s writing because he doesn’t tell us everything. He expertly creates blank spaces for our mind’s imagination to dance on in.
For example, Mary’s closing line: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord.”
Think of the multitude of the ways she could have said it: quiet, like an introspective librarian; loud, like a mighty warrior.
She could have said it with fear and trembling, or cool and detached.
She could have said it with tears in her eyes. Or she could have sung it to the mountaintops, with joy radiating out of her very being.
That’s how I would like to envision Mary this season. Not at a passive bystander to her son’s story or a specimen of untainted holiness.
But as someone who received an awesome calling from God, who was given a unique opportunity, and was someone who approached it with joy.
Sure, there had to be things she worried about: what will her parents say, what will the neighbors think, how would this affect her future.
But how could she say “Here am I…let it be with me according to your word” without there being a hint of smile and a sense of joy of what’s to become?
Think about what this call from God means: that she, a poor peasant girl has access to the sacred outside the context of the patriarchal family and its control. (Jane Schaberg)
Think of how this surprising news becomes an opportunity for grace. (Elizabeth Huwiler)
Think of how, as her body would begin to stretch and grow that her soul would also stretch out and grow into the glory of her God. (Margaret Hebblethwaite)
If Mary experienced the divine, how can joy not follow?
And if Mary experienced joy, why can’t we?
How has God called us in a way that brings about joy?
What are the talents, the gifts we have been given, that when we use them, when they are utilized, we find joy bubbling up from within?
What has God placed within us that brings the twinkle to our eyes and a smile on our lips???
Before we close, another joke:
Little Johnnie desperately wanted a red wagon for Christmas. His friends were writing letters to Santa Claus, but Johnnie decided to go one better.
"Dear Jesus," he wrote. "If I get a red wagon for Christmas, I won't fight with my brother for a year."
Then Johnnie thought “Oh, no, he is such a brat, I could never keep that promise.” So Johnnie threw away the letter and started again.
"Dear Jesus, if I get a red wagon for Christmas, I’ll eat all my vegetables for a year."
Then Johnnie thought “Oh, no, that means lima beans and peas. Yuck! I could never ever keep that promise.”
Suddenly Johnnie had an idea.
He went downstairs to the living room. From the mantel above the fireplace, he grabbed the family's statue of the Virgin Mary.
Taking the statue to the kitchen he wrapped it in newspapers and stuffed it into a grocery bag. He took the bag upstairs to his room, opened the closet and placed the package in the farthest, darkest corner.
He then closed the closet door, took a new sheet of paper and wrote:
"Dear Jesus, if you ever want to see your mother again..."
In conclusion: today we continue our Advent journey with the theme of joy.
Joy that’s rooted in a hope for the world. Joy that comes from knowing God’s dreams for us are grander then our own.
Christmas is about joy. It’s about doing things that are fun: stringing up lights, putting up decorations.
Christmas is about people; people not just singing carols together, but actually being friends, loving one another.
Christmas is about the story it tells us about God, about Jesus, about the world, and about who we are and how we fit in.
With this in mind, can we envision this moment in Mary’s life as a time of joy?
A joy that will reach all four corners of the world, beyond all fields and floods, hills and plains, men and women, old and young.
And how do we, as God’s people, get to become angelic messengers of that news this season?
Here we are Lord; let it be according to your word. Here we are, Lord. Here we are.
Amen and amen.