Sunday, December 20, 2009

4th Sunday of Advent - Reflections

Our readings today are as follows:

Micah 5:2-5a
Psalm 80:1-7
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-55

I spent most of my time on the Magnificat in Luke. For those who don’t know this refers to Mary’s song as found in Luke 1:46-54. It is called the “Magnificat” because the first words of the passage in Latin are “Magnificat anima mea, Dominum.”

It is a beautiful hymn (poem?) where Mary is captured by God’s mercy, holiness, power and his mindfulness of her. The God who works wonders is working in this young girl’s life for reasons she can’t begin to imagine. She sees herself as blessed. Do we? Talk about Mary too much in some Protestant circles and you’ll be thought of as a closet Catholic. Isn’t it funny how we can’t mention Mary very much but we can talk about David, Abraham, Ruth, or Esther as much as we like. We craft entire sermons and study guides around their lives and glean from them lessons to grow on. But talk about Mary and someone is sure to say, “Why are you so obsessed with Mary? Shouldn’t we focus on Jesus?” At some level this reaction is understandable. Protestants watch the veneration (often confused as worship) offered to Mary in the Catholic and Orthodox churches and feel very uncomfortable with the amount of attention she receives. My experience has been that rather than try to understand what lies behind this veneration we would rather assume there can be no good reason for it and so we swing the pendulum in the other direction. Not only will we not call Mary “blessed” we won’t talk about her at all. (Although see the work by Tim Perry from IVP Academic: Mary For Evangelicals: Toward an Understanding of the Mother of Our Lord and from Scot McKnight we have The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus.)

What do I learn from Mary here? Without too much thought two things come to mind. Whatever shame she may have experienced from friends or family here she is lost in praise to God and reflective of his works and his character. Secondly, she is still carrying the baby. At this point we are still waiting for the birth. While we wait for Jesus we can and should reflect on what God has done and what wonders await us. Advent bids us to wait, to expect, to prepare. As we do that we can ponder, as Mary did (Luke 2:19), the works of God and what will come when this baby is born. We find ourselves waiting again. This time for Jesus’ second coming. As we wait, remember what God has done in our lives and in the lives of others. The fact that God is working does not mean life does not have painful moments. It doesn’t mean all our questions will be answered. Our confidence and hope lie in the character of God. Mary reminds us that God’s mercy “extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” That generation includes us. With Mary, then, let us magnify the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior!

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