Adventurous Lectionary – December 21, 2014 – The Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Adventurous Lectionary – The Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 21, 2014
Luke 1:26-55
On the Fourth Sunday of Advent, our eyes turn to the call of Mary of Nazareth and her calling to us. Her response to God and her hymn of praise ring out through the ages and serve as a model for our own spiritual journeys. Accordingly, I believe that the congregation would profit from focusing on the entire Mary Saga, Luke 1:26-55, perhaps as a readers’ theatre or dramatic presentation and place the remaining lectionary texts in the background or eliminate them altogether to focus on this woman of agency and adventure.

Mary’s response to Gabriel is as much about fidelity as physiology. The nativity story begins with a surprising angelic visit to an ordinary young woman, on the verge of marriage. There is no hint that she is sinless or immune from the vicissitudes of human life. There is nothing in the gospel account that would point to her uniqueness metaphysically or prenatally. She was the child of mortals who shared in the challenges and ambiguities of mortality. Though called by God to be the mother of God’s savior, she is also “every woman” or “every person.” We are also called by God, in challenging times, to give birth to God’s new age.
To say Mary is perplexed by her angelic visitor is an understatement. Think for a moment how you might feel if you were the recipient of an angelic request of any kind, not to mention an unexpected pregnancy. “How can this be?” Mary responds. We might say the same thing if we received an unexpected spiritual announcement and were called from our comfort zone to a new adventure. Am I the one to say “yes” to God’s calling? Does God really want me to take this step?
The angel reassures her, “Do not be afraid.” In your fear and trembling, God is with you and will bring forth something wonderful in your life.
Mary’s uniqueness is not her perfection, but her willingness to say “yes” to the unexpected and apparently impossible. She aligns her will with God’s will and miracles occur. For with God, nothing is impossible. What we deem impossible may be part of God’s deeper reality breaking forth in our lives.
Today’s extended passage describes a synergy of fetal affirmations. The child in Elizabeth’s womb, the result of another surprising invitation from God, leaps for joy in encountering the child growing within Mary. Divine providence occurs in womb as well as in our ongoing postnatal adventures. Out of the movements of fetuses, God is worshipped.
The movements of prenatal John and Elizabeth’s affirmation, inspire Mary to song. Mary’s hymn of praise, the Magnificat, is equally miraculous. She proclaims her humility and God’s greatness and then launches out into a world-changing message. God’s coming rule, alive in the she child she will bear, turns everything upside down. Unjust social structures are overturned – the hungry are fed, the wealthy sacrifice; roles are reversed as God’s peaceable realm comes to earth.
The miracle is saying “yes” to God. When we say “yes” to God’s ways, the world is transformed. Yet, we have chosen to say “no” to God’s ways and thus perpetuate the growing distance between the rich and poor, unjust distribution of the world’s resources, and the destruction of the earth and its ecosystems.
Mary’s miracle vision appears impossible to us. At first glance, Christmas can’t change our greed and self-interest and our neglect of the vulnerable and marginalized. Yet, with God nothing is impossible, according to Gabriel. The impossible possibility is that we will embrace God’s vision, follow God’s vision, and live on earth as it is in heaven.
Mary’s willingness to say “yes” and then act upon her affirmation inspires us to be agents in God’s adventure. God presents possibilities for new birth and we are called to carry these possibilities to term and nurture them in our rough and tumble world. Mary’s “yes” opens the door for unimaginable adventures for herself and our world. She gives birth to God’s novel vision and opens the door for the coming Christ. Let us open to angelic visitors and in all of our unpreparedness be willing to say “yes” for God’s dream taking birth in our own lives and congregations.

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