Summary: What qualities of character did Mary possess that enabled her to agree to be the mother of the Christ child? Not your average teen, eh?
Sermon for CATM – December 13, 2009 - Advent II – Mary’s Song – The Magnificat
Who here has been on the Internet this week? Who has been on Youtube? Well, today we’re going to talk about Mary’s Song, otherwise known as the Magnificat, so in case you’ve been confused by what you’ve seen on Youtube, this should clear it up.
Video intro: Not the magnifi-cat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1V0pgipCJk
Please stand as we read Luke 1:39-56
Frederick Buechner’s little book of character sketches of people from the Bible has this to say about the angel Gabriel as he encounters Mary: "She struck him as hardly old enough to have a child at all, let alone this child. But he had been entrusted with a message to give her, and he gave it.
He told her what the child was to be named, who he was to be, and something about the mystery that was to come upon her.
’You mustn’t be afraid, Mary,’ he said. As he said it, he only hoped she wouldn’t notice that beneath the great golden wings, he himself was trembling with fear to think that the whole future of Creation hung on the answer of a girl." SOURCE: Frederick Buechner in Peculiar Treasures.
Last week we talked about the first advent theme of ‘hope and waiting’ and we tried to put ourselves in Mary’s position as she received the news that she would bear the Son of God, the Christ child.
We thought for a while about Mary’s response to the angel, and we considered that she might have said “No!” This would have led, no doubt, to a further assignment for the angel Gabriel.
But of course Mary said “Yes” and in saying “Yes” Mary accepted all that the angel had said to her.
This was, for Mary, quite an assignment. Quite a mind-blowing opportunity.
She had no prior heads-up that this was going to happen. She, as a teenager, did not have the maturity of someone who could begin to grasp the implications of what was being asked of her, as if a thousand lifetimes could prepare someone.
But Mary did say “Yes!”, which, you know, strikes me. Why did she day “yes”?
How did she, in the thick of an angelic visitation which must have been quite terrifying, come to a place where her fears and her anxieties and probing questions could perhaps be put over here, and she chose to agree to be a part of this wild, outrageous plan.
God…God the Son, would be birthed in her. How? How did she find that courage?
I think today’s Scripture reading, which follows immediately from last week’s, gives us some insight into Mary, into her character, into her faith and into her openness to be used by God for this completely unique purpose.
Let’s have a look again. If you were here last week you remember that to help Mary get her brain around what was happening, the Angel had pointed to a relatively minor miracle as he said to her that Elizabeth, relative, most likely her cousin, was to have a baby in her old age. So then…
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
Mary wanted to verify what she could verify, to get a sense of the mystery that was unfolding in and around her. So, having already believed and having already committed herself to being the bearer of the Son of God, Mary checks out the angel’s story by visiting her cousin.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
Again, the plot thickens. Not only is Mary able to confirm what the angel has said by witnessing Elizabeth in her old age carrying a child in her womb, there has been a bit of a divine dance (eruption) in Elizabeth’s belly.
At the moment when Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the child she carried leaped for joy.
Let me ask you. Who was Elizabeth carrying in her womb? [John, who would be become known as John the Baptist]. On one level this was a moment where two cousins, Mary and Elizabeth, meet and rejoice in their mutual blessing of bearing children.
On another level this is a moment where God, the Son of God in gestation in Mary’s womb, meets for the first time the one who would be His herald, the one who would, in 30 years or so, baptize Jesus as Jesus began His public ministry.