The Rev. Kathy McAdams
St John’s Episcopal Church, Franklin
December 23, 2018 - Fourth Sunday of Advent C
Have you been staring at those packages that say, “Do not open till Christmas!” We’re almost there! It’s almost time! But not yet. We’re still waiting with Mary in joyful anticipation; still pregnant.
Mary, an unmarried teenage girl from the small town of Nazareth has taken a leap of faith, and said yes to God; yes to being the God-bearer; yes to being a vehicle for God’s love to enter the world, to change the world, to make everything new. And what a risk that was for her. Her family might have turned her away. Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, might have had her stoned to death, as would have been his legal right. So, in the midst of all this tension, Mary decides to visit her older cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant, 6 months farther along than Mary, perhaps in the hope that she will find some comfort. And, indeed, just as she arrives, Elizabeth recognizes her for the God-bearer whom she is. And the reason she does so is because of the child Elizabeth is carrying, the one who will become John the Baptist, preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry in the world, and paying for it with his life. John recognizes Jesus when they are both in-utero, and makes it possible for Elizabeth to recognize Mary for whom she has become, and for what she is doing for the world.
Mary responds to her with what has become known as the “Song of Mary” or the “Magnificat.” It foreshadows God’s ministry of mercy and strength through Jesus in turning the world upside down: to scatter the proud, to lift up the lowly, to fill the hungry with good things, and to send the rich away empty.
This is how God works at repairing the world, by coming into the world in human flesh, to live among us as one of us, to understand us intimately, and to show us a new way of living. He comes to show us that we are not to live by law, but by love. As we hear in the letter to the Hebrews:
When Christ came into the world, he said,
"Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, 'See, God, I have come to do your will, O God'
God comes to show us that we don’t need to build temples and altars and offer sacrifices; we don’t need to follow elaborate laws. The laws that Jesus emphasizes are, “Love God and Love Your Neighbor.” And that’s how we work with God to repair the world. That’s how we do God’s will. But Jesus isn’t here…yet.
We’re almost there! It’s almost time! Are we prepared for his arrival?