My Advent reflections here are based on the scriptures in the Christian Liturgy for this Fourth Sunday of Advent: Micah 5:2-5a, Psalm 80:1-7, Hebrews 10:5-10, and Luke 1:39-55. The Psalm is especially meaningful right now, as we feast on tears through this latest slaughter in Newtown. But the Psalm is also perennial in its meaning, as we long for something more every year in this Advent season. God’s coming into the world will wipe every tear away (cf. Revelation 7, et. al.), this is one of the most prevalent visions throughout scripture. Despite how terrible things look right now, we have the faith and the hope that God will transform all of creation into something new and more abundant.
Still, one of the grand takeaways from the Advent scriptures is that God can’t, and won’t, do this on Her own. WE all have a part to play in this. Our Advent waiting is not passive, and our preparations for God’s coming have very little to do with our own personal salvation. We wait and prepare because we are all responsible for the transformation of the universe in some way. God has commissioned all of us to help, and this completion of creation won’t come about unless we all do what is required of us. Jesus has done his part, as described in the Hebrews passage. Now, as the Body of Christ, Jesus’ Present(s) on earth, it’s our turn.
Mary embodied this as well in the part she played for God. I’ve talked this in part in a previous un-Sermon. These stories of Jesus’ parents continue to amaze me, as they say so much about the ways God needs us to act in the world. And Mary’s words in this Gospel passage….as familiar as Zechariah’s song, because it’s sung every Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. Wow. Let’s see it word for word, listen to what she’s really saying here:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God, my salvation.
For he has shown me such favour –
me, his lowly handmaiden.
Now all generations will call me blessed,
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
His name is holy,
his mercy lasts for generation after generation
for those who revere him.
He has put forth his strength:
he has scattered the proud and conceited,
torn princes from their thrones;
but lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
he has remembered his mercy as he promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
It’s already tremendous enough that Mary, at probably around 13-14 years old, has decided to face ridicule and possible death by getting pregnant outside of marriage. That’s why she’s so clever in taking off to her cousin’s, can’t get put to death if no one really knows what happened!
Now look at what she says about her situation, describing things very similar to Micah’s proclamation in the first reading- God’s coming will take place in the most unexpected ways, in places very few could ever imagine God being present and involved. Read as well what the Qur’an has to say about this birth narrative in Sura (chapter) 19, named al-Maryam, after Mary (that’s right, there’s more about Mary in the Qur’an than in the New Testament!). Different narratives pointing to this same Truth, another vision so prevalent in scripture- God doesn’t really care that much about the rich and powerful, nor does She have many good things to say about them. If you wanna find where God is on the move, and the people involved in these new comings of God into the universe to bring about its transformation, don’t look to those in charge. In fact, those of us in charge are gonna have our asses handed to us by God’s actors in the world.
God will come into the world through a knocked-up teenage girl, giving birth in a cave in some hillbilly town, and She will speak through her! Mary’s Song has that power. She is God’s voice, and what she/She has to say does not fit well into the accepted order of things. People like me who have all the food and riches they could ever desire will not be real happy about what God will do when She comes. It will be an Adventus that will transform everything, especially the way people have ordered things. And God will triumph, finally, over those rich and powerful, who will finally see whose side God is on; over everything evil that opposes the ways of God, in ways more terrible and terrific than any misinterpretation of Mayan astronomy or Zombie philosophy could ever imagine.
Remember that, my friends, as we sing so somber and sweet about silent nights and heavenly peace over the next few days. I have a feeling God’s turning of the tables that Micah and Mary prophesy about won’t be so quiet. What do you think?….