Monday, January 7, 2019

The World is About to Turn

Luke 1:39-56
Advent 4
December 23, 2018

Micah follows the same pattern we’ve heard from the other prophets:
The people have messed up, there’s destruction and sadness,
and after that, a great restoration, of life, joy, peace, justice,
and a renewed relationship with God.

But Micah does something which some of the others didn’t:
his hope is found in a specific person, born in a specific place:
Bethlehem, or as the region around it was called, Ephrath.

Bethlehem was not a big or important city.
But it was the birthplace of Saul and of David.
Israel’s first two kings.
And there is hope that another king would come
from there who would bring about this new reign.

The hope was that a new King would rule
like David ruled, (except, of course, for the bad things David did)
and that leadership would deliver the people from their present
suffering and chaos, and return them to the right path.

This is the hope of the Messiah,
which at the time just meant a leader who would deliver the people.
The hope of many was that the leader would bring
back the good old days – Make Israel great again.
And Bethlehem was where we should look for the birth of this leader.

But as we’ve heard from the other prophets,
Micah tells us we will not be going back to the good old days.
These will be new days, and different days,
the Messiah will not make things great again,
this Messiah will make things great for the first time.

Jen Norton
Which brings us to Mary and her song.
Mary is from Nazareth and not Bethlehem.
After she hears about her pregnancy,
but she is told that she will give birth to this Messiah.

After she hears, she visits her cousin Elizabeth,
who also happens to be pregnant 
with John the Baptist.
When they meet, Mary sings 
the song we heard today,
which has come to be called the Magnificat.
which is Latin for “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

In this song, she rejoices that she has the
privilege of giving birth to the 
one promised Messiah.
She glorifies God for his power, 
holiness, and mercy.
And she looks forward to 
God transforming the world
through the Messiah that she is carrying.

And this won’t be a trip back to the past,
and the good old days of yesterday.
God is doing a new thing here like the prophets foretold:
He is scattering the proud,
filling the hungry, and sending the rich away empty,
Pulling the powerful down  from their thrones, and lifting up the lowly.

This may not be good news for those who are proud, rich, and powerful.
But this is very good news for the lowly, the hungry, and the weak.

It depends on where you are in the scheme of things.
And we, who are privileged enough in our lives,
can choose who do we want to ally ourselves with
and relate to, and now is the time to consider it.

Because in Mary’s song, these things have already happened.
Even though this Messiah hasn’t even been born yet,
Mary knows that God will fulfill his plans and promises.
Even though it hasn’t happened ,
and the evidence around us points to the contrary,
Faith says it’s as good as done.
Already and not yet.

I love this story about Bishop Desmond Tutu.
I’ve probably told it before, but it’s worth repeating.
Bishop Tutu was an Episcopal bishop
in South Africa during apartheid.

He was very outspoken against apartheid
and received many threats from the government.

In the darkest days of that era on an Easter Sunday morning,
hundreds of worshipers gathered
for service at St. George Cathedral in Capetown,
where Bishop Tutu was presiding.

In the middle of the service a group of the
notorious South African Security Police
came into the service and gathered in the aisles of the church
around the walls some with machine guns
and some with writing pads and tape recorders,
Waiting to record what Bishop Tutu would say.
Tutu had already been arrested a few weeks earlier.

The parishioners were nervous and tense, there was a pall over them.
If Bishop Tutu said something radical,
he might be arrested or even shot on sight.
But if he didn’t say anything then the apartheid regime
would have won by intimidation.

Bishop Tutu came out to the pulpit
and he started bouncing up on his heels and laughing.
And everyone started laughing with him.
Which lifted the crowd.

And then he addressed the police directly.
He said to them in the warmest, but firmest and clearest tone,
“You are powerful. You are very powerful, but you are not gods.
And I serve a God who cannot be mocked.
So, since you have already lost,
I invite you today to come and join the winning side!”
And at that, the worried crowd, leapt to their feet
and praised God and started dancing in the cathedral,
and danced into the streets
and danced right up to the armed security forces
that were surrounding the cathedral,
who just backed up and let the people dance.

Bishop Tutu was right. Justice would prevail.
God would help them see the end
of that terrible system of government.
The side to be on was God’s side.
There was no physical sign that it would happen on that Easter,
but he knew it would.
Already and not yet.

And even during times when it seems that chaos is winning,
when the bad seems to be overpowering the good,
all we need to know is that we serve a God who cannot be mocked.
We know how it will end.

We trust in Mary’s faith.
We trust the promise of the coming Messiah,
who is coming in the future, but is already here.

Although it may not seem like it today,
we know that God will prevail.
justice will prevail, forgiveness,
and love, and peace will prevail

We are invited to answer Mary’s call and
let our souls, words, thoughts, and actions magnify our Lord.

Because we know with the arrival of Christ
into our hearts and lives,
that the world is about to turn.

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