Sunday, December 24, 2006

Advent IV (C) Sermon

I came to know the Magnificat through this song, it was written by a priest in MI, and was the version we sang at the diocesan camp I worked at.

The Magnificat or the Song of Mary is a powerful song. If we consider that Mary was a young teenager when she made this pronouncement, we get a real glimpse into a faithful and revolutionary song, of a person inspired by the Holy Spirit.

There are times we don’t even recognize how powerful this song is…

John Dear in his book, Mary of Nazareth, Prophet of Peace, tells us that in the mid 1970s the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo or the Mothers of the Disappeared whose children "disappeared" under the Argentina military dictatorship used the Magnificat to call for nonviolent resistance to that military rule. The magnificat was banned in Argentina.

But why? Think of the words from the Magnifcat…

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

This is talking about at God at work in the world, dispensing God’s justice, lifting up the lowly, the poor, the humble and hungry. Those in power, the proud, the rich, they will be brought down…

No wonder a dictatorship that can only exist by fear does not want such resistance emboldened by God’s words and justice…

Those words can inspire us and lead us to help those in need, and of course, frighten those in power.

Jonathan Myrick Daniels was an Episcopal seminarian in 1965 in Cambridge, MA. In March 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, asked students and others to join him in Selma, Alabama for a march to the state capital in support for his civil rights program.

When news of the request reached the campus, students began to debate and consider going. At Evening Prayer at the chapel, Jon Daniels decided that he ought to go. Later he wrote:

“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.’ I had come to Evening Prayer as usual that evening, and as usual I was singing the Magnificat with the special love and reverence I have always felt for Mary's glad song. "He hath showed strength with his arm." As the lovely hymn of the God-bearer continued, I found myself peculiarly alert, suddenly straining toward the decisive, luminous, Spirit-filled "moment" that would, in retrospect, remind me of others--particularly one at Easter three years ago. Then it came. "He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things." I knew then that I must go to Selma. The Virgin's song was to grow more and more dear in the weeks ahead.”

Jonathan Myrick Daniels and others would go to Selma and he continued working there for several months helping with the civil rights movement. On August 20, 1965 he was shot and killed by a deputy sheriff in Hayneville, Alabama. His last act was to thrust Ruby Sales, a young African American woman, out of the path of the gunfire that took his life and seriously wounded another civil rights worker.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, "One of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry and career for civil rights was performed by Jonathan Daniels."

And Jonathan Daniels was led to the South by the Magnificat…

And so we end our Advent with Mary, to whom the angel Gabriel came and said, “Greetings favored one. The Lord is with you.” To whom Elizabeth her cousin said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

To which Mary sings, "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God…"

It is Mary’s, Yes to God, that allows God’s reality to break into the world that Christmas long ago. This is not some starry eyed teenager but one who by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit humbled herself to accept the gift of the Christ Child and has given us a song. A song about the power tables being turned, about the lowly being lifted up, which she herself had experienced.

Since those times, the song of Mary, the Magnificat has been a part of the prayer life of the Christian Church. And like the Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina and Jonathan Myrick Daniels, we will find in those words God calling to us and our own song joining with Mary’s…

So let us end our Advent together, by reciting Mary’s song, the Magnificat, a song for us, pull out those Books of Common Prayer and let us turn to page 65…

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