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Lombard CRC

Mary's Song of Justice

One of my favorite singers, Dan Fogelberg,

once said that if he had only one song to sing,

this would be it.
He was talking about his song

giving honor to his father,

called ‘Leader of the Band.’

 

If you had only one song to sing, what would it be?

During this Christmas season

we are going to listen to the songs of Christmas

as recorded in the gospels.

Because most all those Christmas songs

you hear in the mall and on the radio

just don’t tell the real story.

I never understood how

the one radio station devoted to

playing Christmas music during this season

sounds like it has only 10 songs

and none of them actually mention the birth of Jesus!

So we want to focus on the originals.

The Bible’s songs

that accompanied the birth of Christ.

 

The coming of Jesus as one of us,

God-with-us, Emmanuel,

had people singing.

The angels sing at his birth.

The priest Zechariah sings.

The old saint Simeon sings

   on the busy streets of the city.

All Bethlehem cries out.

And each songs reveals something about Jesus,

and about life and faith in him.

Christmas should have us singing, too!

True,

those of you who study the Bible carefully,

will tell me that before each poem

it doesn’t say he sang,

or she sang,

or they sang,

rather it uses a word like verse 46 says of Mary,  ‘she said.’

But the word ‘said’ isn’t first about speaking,

it is about declaring, proclaiming,

not just words,

but the ‘last word.’

It’s settled.

This is the last word on the subject.

This is what it all means.

So these are the last words

on the subject of Christ’s coming

as God with us, in the flesh,

one of us to redeem us.

And their holy words

lead us to conclude

these are songs

praising, glorifying the majesty and mercy of God.

 

So what are you singing this Christmas?

What does it reveal about your Savior

and your love and heart for Jesus?

Our hope is that not only

will this season of Christ’s birth have us singing,

but that the song in our heart

will lead us to love God and our neighbor

with all the love that came down at Christmas

in the incarnate Son,

God who became human

to take away the sin of the world.

 

Today, we listened to Mary’s song.

We don’t know if Mary was much of a singer.

But she sure had a song in her heart

that guided her faith and trust.

“My soul glorifies the Lord

47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

48 for he has been mindful

    of the humble state of his servant . . .

the Mighty One has done great things for me—

    holy is his name.

What if you would say and sing this at Christmas?

If the glory of God were your first concern?

If you chose to rejoice in God

and not the trendiest gift

or the richest food

or the frantic reach for more?

If holiness, not happiness, was your prayer?

 

What does Christmas tell us about the true God?

Mary sings in praise to God my Savior.

Her song acknowledges her need to be saved.

Mary?

Most likely a teenage girl,

what does she need saving from,

saving for?

Mary’s song reminds each one of us

of our deepest need.

We are born needing to be saved.

And we cannot save ourselves.

We are born made for,

needing the Lord God and his grace.

Life without God will only be diminished,

less than what it could be and should be.

And eternity would be lost,

what we are made for,

lost without Christ.

So to sing about Jesus

whose name means, God saves,

is to acknowledge sin,

there is something wrong in you

that needs forgiving and changing.

That’s not easy to admit to.

But it leads to freedom

from false Christmas expectations,

that if I only get the right gift,

or give the right gift,

or make it look like I’m happy,

or spend time with the right people,

then my life will be all it’s meant to be.

Life is not about measuring up:

do you judge yourself because

you’re not as athletic as she is,

you’re not as well-liked as he is,

you don’t have as much as she does,

you can’t do as much as he can?

Those don’t tell the story of your life.

The cross does.

And the cross of Jesus declares

you are loved and treasured completely,

for God has given his life for you.

 

Jesus came because of you,

but also for you.

Savior.

He is not surprised by your sin.

He has taken away your guilt.

He has carried your shame.

 

To sing, God my Savior,

is to pray for the Lord to change you.

It is to trust that in the good and bad of the day,

in the gains and losses of life,

in the laughter but also the tears,

what God is up to

when you don’t know what in the world

God is doing,

is that the Savior is changing you

for his better.

There is sin in me that must be removed,

cut out,

spirits in my soul need to be silenced

so the true word of Christ may dwell in me.

Renovation work has to be done on my values -

that isn’t just a fresh coat of paint

on the walls I have constructed

to keep my life safe and secure,

but a tearing down of those walls

to open them up and let the light in.

 

For life isn’t about relief;

it is meant for God’s glory.

That’s what Mary sings:

my soul glorifies the Lord.

How can that be?

How could a life like hers, right then,

honor, love and praise God?

 

Her status couldn’t have been more humble.

An ordinary young woman –

no resume, no royal ancestry, no special skills,

no connection to riches.

Her sight into the future

could not have been more cloudy and dark.

A woman living in a man’s world,

a Jew living oppressed under Roman world,

from Galilee, second class in Israel . . .

And to make her situation more difficult:

She is pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

Her fiancé is thinking divorce.

Her family is thinking disown.

Her community’s law was telling neighbors

to pick up stones . . .

Not even she knew what would happen.

This was going to be a risky life.

She was already sacrificing her dreams

for God’s decisions.

This is a life that glorifies God?

Yes, because she said yes to God.

And when you say yes to the will of God,

the Lord is glorified.

 

Mary knew what God is like.

And Mary knew how God has acted before.

She knew the strength of God’s promises

and the love of God’s redeeming heart.

She teaches us that it is not

human power,

or earthly wealth,

or material status

that is a prerequisite to glory,

but a life transformed by the mercy of God

that can bless the world.

 

Mary knew this because she knew

the Old Testament story of Hannah.

Another mother who sang a song

just like Mary now sings.

I Sam 2 –

listen to her song and can you hear how

it sounds like Mary’s?

My heart rejoices in the LORD . . .

There is no one holy like the LORD . . .

those who were hungry hunger no more . . .

he raises the poor from the dust . . .

 

Mary’s song is just like Hannah’s.

And Mary sings just what Hannah sang long before.

Mary realizes that she too is part of God’s redemption story.

She’s been included in God’s grace, too.

‘. . .  for the Mighty One

has done great things for me.’

Me too, she sings.

And if Christmas is for Mary,

Christmas is for you, too.

Christmas says that even you are included

in God’s story of redemption and deliverance.

 

But just what has she been included into?

While she personalizes the new reality Jesus brings,

she isn’t thinking just about herself.

She is singing about justice:

51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;

    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones

    but has lifted up the humble.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things

    but has sent the rich away empty.

 

This is the good life she is invited now to live.

Not just about her, but for all God’s people,

even you and me.

The gospel goes on attack

against the proud and the powerful,

the gospel pays attention to the needs of the poor, the hungry and humble.

 

So Christmas is about a change in our values.

A reversing of the normal order of things

to favor what is right.

 

That’s why the songs we sing are so important.

If all we’re singing this time of year is about

sleigh bells and snowmen

and parties for hosting

marshmallows for toasting

that sure is a way to have a merry little Christmas -

but Christmas shouldn’t be little:

hope, peace, joy and love are great things.

 

Mary’s song gets us yearning for what’s right.

We are reminded that the coming of Jesus

as God with us

is the right thing.

And so our lives are to turn toward what is right.

That’s the thrust of justice:

doing right

doing right by you.

Down the street and around the corner from Macy’s

and in the hearts of the mall shoppers

is another world being born

called doing right by our neighbors

and for the stranger

in the name of the one who comes

for the hungry,

the humble, and the homeless.

 

So will you make room this Christmas for justice,

the rightness of God,

doing what is right?

 

What’s right these days?

Look around for who is down,

measured low by the standards of health and wealth

and lift them up in mercy.

 

Examine your words and actions

asking, am I offering hope by what I say and do?

Am I bringing an invitation to trust in God

by serving and giving?

 

Christmas is that personal.

Involving us in what is right in God’s eyes and heart.

And that brings you and me strength for the day.

I may not have the resources or the wisdom

to fix what’s wrong and broken around me;

I don’t have that much strength.

But giving instead of getting,

 blessing instead of cursing,

  serving instead of being served,

   standing with the alone instead of going on my way,  

    hoping instead of despairing,

     choosing patience instead of irritation,

      loving when I do not like

       preferring the fruit of the Spirit

       to the fruit of my labors . . .

these are all strong moves

because they are godly acts.

And God multiplies even the smallest of gifts.

So will you make Christmas that personal?

Taking these words to heart,

since God did right by me,

giving the Son,

I will add this to my Christmas celebration,

sharing in what is right and good for another.

 

The thing with Mary’s song  

is that she sings it

at the beginning of her service.

It’s all just starting for her.

The physical sacrifices of pregnancy.

The risks of her engagement with Joseph

and the acceptance of her family

and friends and spiritual community.

She’s still a young woman –

there’s a lot of unknown ahead of her.

And how do you be mother to the Son of God?

 

Yet she rejoices –

because even tho it is risky, it is right.

Don’t be afraid if you don’t know

all the particulars of your life with God.

Grace will teach our hearts to fear

and grace our fears relieve,

but always in that order.

 

And so let us give honor to our Father in Heaven

for the good gift of his Son, our Savior,

who will raise the humble,

and who calls us to practice the good and the right

until we do right by those around us.

 

Let this song of Mary teach us some of what

Christ’s coming at Christmas really is about:

not just me, but all God’s people.

Not my self, but justice,

that is, doing right by and for my neighbors.

Changing my values to favor what’s right.

Living for God’s glory and not just my relief.

For Christmas is about God’s glory,

and in the glory of the Lord is our hope,

for no one is so down

the Lord cannot lift her up,

and no one is so lost,

that our Savior cannot find him.

 

 

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