Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sermon for Dec 21, 2014; Luke 1:46-55

Rev. George Miller
Luke 1:46-55
Dec 21, 2014

“Where have you come from and where are you going?”

This Advent season we’re celebrating the fact that we have faith in Sebring while joyfully waiting for the Lord.

We’ve talked about being fantastic failures; we’ve talked about holy interruptions. In our Lectionary Bible Study we talked about how Mary is not the first person to be visited by an angel, nor is she the first to be told she will have a child.

Looking back upon our Old Testament scripture, we read one of the earliest such stories in Genesis 16:1-16.

It’s the story of Hagar, the slave-girl who gets dragged into the soap-opera like drama of Abraham and Sarah.

After being used like an object and mistreated by her mistress, Hagar runs away into the wilderness. Although she is pregnant, she sees it as a better alternative than being caught up in their dysfunction.

While resting by a spring of water, “kapooya!”, an angel appears to Hagar and says “Where have you come from and where are you going? have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael…”

Last week we pretty much covered the idea of interruptions; today let’s embrace and explore this idea of “Where have you come from and where are you going.”

That’s a rich theological notion, the idea that we are each on a journey and that often times we are at pivotal places in which we can look back and we can look forward.

Sometimes we look back with relief, glad that our past is behind us.

Sometimes we look back with melancholy, afraid that the best days are long behind.

Sometimes we look forward, excited about what’s to come: a new job, a new home, a new love, a new opportunity.

Sometimes we look forward with dread: worried about our health, worried about our bills, worried about the future of the world.

Sometimes we’re not even aware we are in an in-between state. Sometimes that reality is so clear we can feel, hear, see and taste it.

Just around the riverbend…something’s coming who knows what, who knows when.

“Where have you come from and where are you going?”

I believe the same sentiment could be said to Mary at this moment of the story. Not too long ago she was just an ordinary girl in an ordinary world, from a nothing family in a no-count town when…

“Kapooya!” the angel Gabriel interrupts her life with the news that she will become pregnant, she will have a child named Jesus and he will be called the Son of God.

Holy reality break.

Mary questions the possibility, but once she’s given all the facts, she says with great strength and fortitude “Here I am, the servant of the Lord.”

For reasons no one really knows, Mary then makes a journey to her cousin’s home; a journey that would have taken a minimum of 2 days.

When there, she discovers her cousin Elizabeth is pregnant as well and she is greeted with these words “Blessed are you among women.”

And as if following a divinely written script, Mary breaks into a song of praise in which her soul magnifies the Lord, she acknowledges her lowliness, thanks the Mighty One for what has been done and she celebrates, in advance, what God will accomplish.

It’s a powerful prayer; don’t be fooled by the images of pop-culture or the presentations of docileness, because Mary sounds like a prayer-warrior, speaking words of social-justice and mercy, anti-establishment and feeding the hungry.

She ends her prayer in a wonderful way that belies her Jewish background, for she recalls the promises God had made to Abraham and Sarah.

By lifting up their names, she is mindful of how God is personal and active in human events and history; how God acts to create, to save and to bless.

Genesis 16:7- “Where have you come from and where are you going?”

Luke 1:46-47- “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Mary’s song is a song for everyone this morning. Mary’s story is all of our stories, because we’ve all had moments of holy interruptions, we’ve all had moments of drastic before and after, and except for the very rare 1% born into extreme wealth and privilege, we all have places of lowliness we can look back upon or are experiencing now.

Genesis 16:7- “Where have you come from and where are you going?”

Mary, in her own words, acknowledges that she has come from a place of lowliness.

The way Luke frames the story, we can see how this is so. First, Mary is a girl; the lowest rung of the social ladder, right above a slave. Women were not regarded with high esteem and children were seen more as property then persons.

Mary is both, a double whammy of lowliness.

Not to mention, she comes from a no-count town in a no-count place. Sure, we know all about Galilee and Nazareth now, but back then…no, no, no.

Back then no one boasted of being from Galilee; no one planned a vacation in Nazareth. They were like the Lorida of the state. They were like the relatives you knew of but no one talked about.

And as we talked about last week, Mary is engaged to be married; which means she may still be living at home with her Dad, but she legally belongs to Joseph. She’s not really a girl but she’s not really a woman.

“Where have you come from?” Mary is the epitome of lowliness, especially…especially now that is she pregnant and she is unwed.

“And where are you going?” That’s an interesting question, because we know where Mary is going.

We know that soon she will journey to Bethlehem, we know soon she will give birth in a manger, we know soon she will be greeted by shepherds sharing their stories.

But for now, none of that has happened yet. For now she is just an unmarried, pregnant girl who has taken a two day journey to visit her equally pregnant cousin, but it is clear that the journey has already made a difference.

Because listen to what Mary says “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me.”

Here we have a woman who sees her lowliness, who understands her humble roots, who is fully aware of her situation, and yet here she is able to look ahead, who is able to name and claim what God will do, how she will be transformed and how the world will be a better place.

“Where have you come from?” Lowliness.

“Where are you going?” Blessedness.

“Where have you come from?” Being hungry.

“Where are you going?” To having enough.

“Where have you come from?” Promises made.

“Where are you going?” Promises fulfilled.

But don’t be fooled into complacency. Don’t be falsely warmed by the glow of the story.

Because although where Mary is going will lead to Bethlehem, to a manger and to Jesus being presented at the Temple, we are to also be aware that Mary will learn what it means to have a sword pierce her soul, as any parent will experience.

Be aware that in about 33 years Mary will go to the place in which she’ll be in the shadow of her son’s cross.

That Mary will most likely be among the women who see the tomb where her son’s dead body would lay on a Friday.

Nor can we forget that according to Luke, Mary was among the woman who went to the tomb that Sunday morn to discover the stone had been rolled away and that she was amongst the first to hear the Good News that Christ had been resurrected.

What this means is that as Mary moves from lowliness to blessedness, as she goes from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as she goes from manger to temple, from cross to empty tomb, we go to.

We are mindful of where we have come from and where we are going.

Sometimes we are moving from sorrow to joy, from joy to sorrow.

Sometimes we are joyfully moving towards, sometimes we are sadly moving away.

Almost all of the time we are in some sort of transition, some kind of change, some kind opportunity.

We can deny it, we can fight it, we can be blind to it. We can embrace it, we can name it, we can claim it.

But we move, we travel, we transition, hopefully mindful of where we’ve been, mindful of where we are going.

As we do so, may we recall that we do not make those journeys alone, that we are not completely in the wilderness by ourselves, that at most times we are probably not as great and superb as we feel, nor are we as lowly or despised as we may think.

But that we are the Lord’s and that the soon-to-be-birth of Jesus the Christ is to remind us of how much we matter, how much we are loved.

To remember that God became incarnate so we can go from place to place, we can move from past to present to future with the knowledge that we are blessed, we are recipients of mercy and grace and that God is indeed acting from generation to generation.

“Where have you come from and where are you going?”

Each of us gets the chance to answer that question, may we also know that in Christ we do not make that journey in vain; in Christ we do not make it alone.

Amen and amen.

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