Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sermon: Advent IV (Dec. 20)

An icon of Mary & Jesus hangs in the room of Jared & Aidan, the icon reminds my boys not only of the presence of Christ near them but of their relationship, of mother & child.

To us in the Western Church, she is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. For many, she is the comforter for our sorrows for she understands because of her own sufferings. She is the Mother of Sorrows. She is called on by many for help in healing. She is Our Lady of Guadeloupe and our Lady of Lourdes. So many look to Mary in hope, and see in her life and in her song, a call to follow; she is also called the Queen of Heaven. Many, many different faces and names to Mary.

In the Orthodox Tradition, from which this icon originates, Mary is called the Theotokos that is God bearer. For as Elizabeth says to Mary: Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord. Elizabeth reminds us that it was Mary who said yes to God, to bear the son of God, for she believed and God acted. And of course, Mary sings her song: My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior…

The story begins for Mary as a teenager and is beautifully captured in his song Let Me Be Like Mary by Eric Law.
Mary was a woman who had her life to live.
She was to marry Joseph, a man with much to give.
Then one day God asked her to be the mother of a Child
who would change and save the world.
It is the angel Gabriel who changes everything for her with a request from God, and it is Mary’s yes that would set her on a very unique journey.
Wise and Gentle Mary, she just said yes to God.
Strong and gentle Mary she bore the child of God.
Brave and gentle Mary owned the joy and pain
Of giving birth to Christ for the world.
Her pregnancy was a scandal. She was unmarried, pregnant, and Joseph was not the father. She took it all on, and for the sake of the world, bore the joy and pain of giving birth to Christ for the world. As Dietrich Bonheoffer put it as he reflected on Mary and her song:
“The song of Mary is the oldest Advent hymn. It is at once the most passionate, the wildest, one might even say the most revolutionary Advent hymn ever sung. This is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary whom we sometimes see in paintings.… This song has none of the sweet, nostalgic, or even playful tones of some of our Christmas carols. It is instead a hard, strong, inexorable song about collapsing thrones and humbled lords of this world, about the power of God and the powerlessness of humankind. These are the tones of the women prophets of the Old Testament that now come to life in Mary’s mouth.”

But it isn’t enough to hear her song and understand that God is at work in this world in mysterious ways. We can look at our icons, our stained glass windows, and leave Mary there or we might consider what her story means for us today.
We are just like Mary who have our lives to live.
We might have our families, our jobs & homes to keep
But what will you do if God asks you to be a servant
who’ll make Christ known to the world
It’s in those everyday encounters when we say Yes… Can you be like Mary and just say yes to God? Brave and strong like Mary to bear the child of God? Can you share with Mary all the joy and pain of giving birth to Christ for the world? Everyday encounters bearing Christ and his love and reconciliation to the world.

(1) She had not talked to her friend for some time and wondered how she was doing. She had heard that the family was going through a tough time. One morning, she saw that a movie they both said they were looking forward to seeing had opened. So she called her: “Hi. Would you like to take in a movie this afternoon?” After a pause, her friend said, “You know, that would be great. It would give us a chance to talk.”

(2) The chair of the college’s education department asked her to come in. “A downtown church is organizing an after-school program for at-risk kids,” he explained. “They’ve asked if any of our students could serve as tutors. You have a real gift for working with young kids and you’re going to make a great teacher. So I thought of you immediately.” She asked a lot of questions; she wondered how she could work it into her busy class schedule; and she didn’t have anywhere near the confidence in herself that her professor clearly had. But, in the end, she said: “I’d love to help.”

(3) After her beloved father’s death from Alzheimer’s disease, she began making an annual gift to the Alzheimer’s Association. One day she received a call asking if she would help organize a “memory walk” for Alzheimer’s research. As she talked to the volunteer, her eyes fell on the photo of her Dad on her desk. “Yes, I’d love to help.”

We are all like Mary for God calls every one of us in the form of an invitation, a plea, a concern for another’s well-being and like Mary, we think of all the kinds of reasons why this doesn’t make any sense or that it’s beyond us to do — but it is in these everyday encounters that God changes the course of history.

“In the Advents of our lives, God calls us to bring his Christ into our own time and place; may we respond with the faith and trust of Mary, putting aside our own doubts and fears to say I am your servant, O God. Be it done.” (Jay Cormier)

For it is up to each of us to say Yes:
Let me be like Mary and just say yes to God.
Brave and strong like Mary to bear the child of God.
Let me share with Mary all the joy and pain
of giving birth to Christ for the world.

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