A Christmas Story 12/24/13

A Christmas Storyblog3Is it BIG enough to

  •  Tell someone you love them
  • To make a long overdue amends
  •  To tell your child that you’re proud of them
  • To face and overcome a lifelong fear
  •  To accept yourself for who you really are
  •  To admit you’re unhappy
  •  To admit you’re in love
  •  To admit that you lied
  •  To admit that you’re in a failed relationship
  • To admit that you’re wrong
  •  To admit that you’re happy
  •  To admit that you’re afraid, in pain, unsure
  •  To realize that you too are a stranger to the stranger and desire recognition and acceptance
  • To allow yourself to be open to something new even if you don’t agree
  •  To allow you to change your mind
  •  To allow you to leave your comfort zone

Just how brave are you…As we await and contemplate the birth of Jesus and its impact on us – don’t forget that without a mother there’s no baby.

Enter – MARY

Mary, the mother of God, the Theotokos – God Bearer….and don’t forget that without a mother there’s no baby.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,” Mary sings. Here is a girl who is unmarried and impoverished, and who has recently been visited by an angel with a very peculiar message. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Mary had every reason to run screaming from this angel, every cause to consider him an Angel of Darkness, not a messenger of the Lord. For having a child out of wedlock, she could be stoned for adultery. At the very least, she could be rejected by Joseph, her parents, her village. She could spend the rest of her days in even deeper poverty, struggling to keep herself and her child fed outside the safety of a marriage and community. But she doesn’t reject God’s ridiculous plan to inhabit her womb.


BIG enough to allow her to move outside of her comfort zone.

Mary hurries to see her cousin Elizabeth and breaks into song – THE SONG OF MARY – “The Magnificate” Luke 1:46-55

I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

This great hymn of praise has empowered the oppressed and unnerved oppressors for millennia. Mary, who knows our Creator so intimately she carries the Son of God – sings of a God who reaches down and touches the pain of his people. This God lifts up the victims of economic poverty and political violence and draws them into his gentle arms, the way a mother hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings. And this God sends the proud packing. The powerful and corrupt who are fluent in the ways of violence and domination are deposed. The rich, who have hoarded the stuff of Creation for their own purposes, are sent away with nothing to show for their greed.

As Christians, we believe in a divine incarnation—that God took human form in the person of Jesus. What’s more, we believe that a young virgin in a Podunk town in Israel carried this Son of God to term. In these Advent weeks, we prepare to hear the wild and glorious story again: that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords made himself at home in swaddling clothes in a dirty and smelly manger. And this baby King mother tells us what the incarnation means: things are going to change. Oppression will give way to justice. Tears will flow into rivers of laughter. The high and mighty will be humbled, and a poor, unmarried mother will give birth to a Savior.

At the time that Mary sings her revolutionary anthem, though, nothing has yet changed on the surface, for God’s time is not akin to our own. She claims that God has brought down the powerful from their thrones—but the Roman Empire continues to dominate the Israelites in their own land. She professes that God has filled the hungry with good things—but famine still plagues the peoples of the earth. How can Mary’s very soul be bursting with glimmering joy when there is so much reason to tremble with fear and quake with sorrow?

It’s irresponsible. It’s idiotic. And yet every word of Mary’s delirious rejoicing is true. The magnification of God that emanates from Mary’s soul, that jeweled core of each human, is deeply, radically and eternally truthful.

The joy of Christmas is all about trusting God’s promise to redeem creation, and Mary’s song reveals the ultimate meaning of the incarnation that is growing within the space of her womb. With the birth of this child—or more accurately, the conception of this child by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit—the course of human history is transformed, altered drastically for the better. Things are not right—this much we are sure of. We believe that God created the world to be a garden of praise and life, not a den of pain and death.

It isn’t right that bodies deteriorate and die. Women shouldn’t be widowed. Young children shouldn’t be killed in senseless car accidents. Parents shouldn’t burry their children. Neighborhoods and schools shouldn’t be ruled by guns. Buildings shouldn’t fall because of terrorists. Nations shouldn’t quarrel with bombs. Corporate and political greed shouldn’t be about the manipulation of others. Young men and women shouldn’t lose their youth to war. Lakes shouldn’t be polluted by toxins. Children shouldn’t fear. Famine and disease must be eructated and telling the truth second nature. Full inclusion of all peoples must be taken for granted. And being different welcomed as indisputable evidence of God’s love and diversity.

Alas, God is moving, and a pregnant young girl bears witness to the glory at hand. A beautiful change is in gestation, and the final triumph of life over death is inevitable.

Centuries before Mary revealed the great works of the Mighty One in her bold canticle, the prophet Isaiah issued a divine clarion call: “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion– to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.”

In Isaiah’s words, we find the same unabated rejoicing in the work of our God. Now we have the fact of oppression, the excruciating pain of broken hearts; Isaiah declares the advent of good news and the binding up of wounds. Now we have captives and prisoners and Isaiah affirms that all persons unjustly jailed shall be liberated. Now there is talk of God’s anger with his creation, but Isaiah announces that the year of the Lord’s favor is at hand. Now men and women are racked with tears of mourning—Isaiah prophecies that they shall be adorned with garments of celebration. Now we are faint with fear and despair, but Isaiah proclaims that we shall be reborn under the happy weight of the mantle of praise.

The child developing within Mary, who causes John the Baptist to jump for joy within his mother’s womb, will grow into a King whose reign is everlasting. He is the anointed one. He has been sent to bring good news; indeed, he is the good news. Everything is going to change, all because God is enfolded into a human being.  Intervention by incarnation.

It may be irresponsible and idiotic to trust the impassioned words of the virgin and the prophet. Good because Blessed are they who are made fools for Christ!

The same spirit of God that came upon Isaiah and overshadowed Mary still moves among us today. The light is bright now, though we are still living in the darkness. Now we pray fervently for wars to cease and captives to be liberated; now we petition anxiously for beloved ones to survive another round of chemotherapy and another barrage of tests. And even now we rejoice, for through the lens of the Magnificat, and everything looks very different.

HOW BIG IS MARY’S BRAVE…big enough that she expresses great joy over the fact that her life is being lifted out of obscurity – that her life is going to count for something of great significance. Mary will now be defined by God’s work for her and in her. She rejoices because her life will be defined not by her social position, but by the fact that she has God as her Savior and has been seized for a great purpose. There is great joy that comes from knowing that you are giving yourself to something great that cannot fail and will endure.  There is great joy in knowing that you are being seized by God for a great purpose – that life is more than your status or standing in society or in a company. There is great joy in knowing that you are being included by God as a recipient of grace and are being given a role to play in the greater story he is unfolding. There is great joy in receiving his grace and salvation and in being used to extend that salvation to others.

Notice Mary’s words: FROM NOW ON ….Mary had all these aspirations for her life and now, God has completely altered them. Mary had one dream for her life, then God moves in this powerful way and she says, “From now on.” A great change has taken place. God’s plan and his work in my life have brought about a major change in who I am and what my life will be about.

Have any of you had a “From now on moment” – ” where God has done something in your life that caused you to say, “a great change has taken place; what I lived for, I can’t live for anymore; I am not the same and cannot pursue the same things.”

God took one look at me, and look what happened!

From Now On Moments are life changing, often painful and the urge to deny them strong.  – Is your brave big enough to recognize and embrace your from now on moments and say “From now on I will have to trust God in deeper and hopeful ways…

Are you brave enough to make this Christmas a From Now On Moment?

Are you brave enough to TRUST?

Mary did – why not you?




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