Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2009 10:03 am
The Messenger, December 24, 2009
Written by members of the Obion County Ministerial Association
On Dec. 20, 2009, we celebrated the last Sunday of the Advent Season, or season of waiting and preparation for the coming of Messiah. The scripture references in many churches on that day took us to Luke’s gospel (Luke 1:39-55), telling of the sudden flight of Mary, who is to become the mother of Jesus, to visit her elder cousin Elizabeth in the hill country. There, Elizabeth, beyond the expected childbearing years, also awaits the birth of a son, to be named John, and to be known as “the Baptizer.”
Both women in their surprise, confusion and joy sing songs of welcome and wonder. Elizabeth blesses her young cousin and the baby she carries. Then she expresses wonder at the strength and humility of the young girl that she has come to visit old Elizabeth in her own time of waiting for a son six months older than the younger girl’s child, and who will bring a close to an historic era of world time while the other child will bring a beginning to another time and world.
Young Mary’s song of joy and wonder is generally known as “The Magnificat,” from the first word of the Latin translation, meaning “magnify.” She sings of her own simple and lowly soul magnifying, enlarging or bringing into clearer view The LORD and the massive changes or upheavals in the world which The LORD will bring. An inspection of that hymn might be interesting to us at this late time of waiting for the Coming One.
The magnificence of God is recognized in God’s choosing the least of humanity in those days to be the instrument bringing The Promised Anointed One to the people. Mary is young, poor and likely uneducated … and she is a woman.
She is a “nobody” in terms of the world of her day. But her faith sees a world turned upside down in the power of God by that which comes into the world through her.
She notes that God offers mercy to all those who stand in awe of God: that high esteem, respect or reverence brought about by a recognition of another’s total power and authority and of one’s own lower place in the ultimate scheme of things. God’s ability to be and to do has been seen in the creation of the universe and the apparent care and ordering of life, she notes. Those who invariably see themselves as “God’s magnificent gift to the world,” commonly known as “the proud of heart,” are to be and even now are scattered and confused, she sings. She remarks that those who by means of skill, cunning or wealth have become powerful “movers and shakers” of local or world-wide destinies will be and even now are taken down many pegs and “de-throned” as powerless, or as “toothless tigers.” Recognizing her own situation, she sings that the lowest, poorest and least important in the world have been and shall be elevated to important function, honor and respect. The hungry, Mary notes, shall be well-fed (and I am pretty sure medically well treated) and those who by reason of relying on and holding to their wealth, or trust in gold (rather than in God alone) now find themselves starved for their deepest need: the abiding and supporting affection of personal appreciation. They will now and ever after walk away unfed and empty.
As I pondered over this ancient hymn of praise, I wondered what would be the outcome if today we allowed The Promised One to be enfleshed within us, to grow and to develop and to emerge born anew in our daily lives and practice. I suspect, the Truth be known, that the vision of the Blessed Mary might be more nearly realized and the now rather upside down world in 2009 would be righted by the power of the Holy One, the Promised One, the Shepherd of Souls, the Prince of Peace.
Rev. Donald E. Brooks
St James’ Episcopal Church
422 East Church St., Union City