Can You Hear Us Singing
Can You Hear Us Singing
Pastor Mick Finch / General
Song; Proclaim / Luke 1:39–55
We magnify the Lord in our own day.
The Girl With No Choices
She lived in Nazareth of Galilee. She was born into a family that was not wealthy. Nazareth was a small village where common laborers lived. There men did not have dependable work. They went to the nearest towns and offered their skills and labor to whoever would hire them for the day. No one who knew the men and families of this village ever expected anything good to come out of Nazareth.
Mary was fourteen years old, maybe twelve. When she was six her father had arranged a marriage for her. The arrangement would have been a financial one. Mary would not have known who her father had arranged for her to marry. Near her fourteenth birthday, dad would have told her who she would marry. She had no choice in the matter. The financial arrangement was final.
Shortly after her betrothal Luke shares this story with us:
Luke 1:26–31 CEB
26 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, 27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.
We are not told if Mary was happy with the choice of Joseph as her future husband. It did not make any difference as I said she had no choice. Now a visit from an angel.
We often think that an angel was surrounded by flashing lights, an angel with wings that flies in, heavenly music filling the air. But most of the time in Scripture an angel looked like an ordinary person. They appeared human-like with a special task of delivering a message from God. Fourteen-year-old girls were not supposed to be alone with strange men. Where ever this encounter occurred you can imagine Mary was at least startled, if not down-right frightened.
The message the angel delivered was not even believable not to mention confusing.:
Luke 1:32–33 CEB
32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”
What is this about God giving my maybe son the throne of his father David? I am not betrothed to someone named David but to a stone-cutter named Joseph. My son will rule over the house of Jacob forever, what Jacob, the one in the Scroll of Genesis? There will be no end to his kingdom, there are no kings or princes in Nazareth. But Mary is brave for a young girl, she speaks to a stranger. Her question goes right to the heart of the matter:
Luke 1:34 CEB
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”
Gabriel tries to explain this to a young girl, you see it will happen something like this:
Luke 1:35 CEB
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son.
To a fourteen-year-old girl, this had to be a little confusing. Gabriel knew this was not a good answer to her question and her doubt in what he was saying to her was true. So Gabriel gives her proof:
Luke 1:36–37 CEB
36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. 37 Nothing is impossible for God.”
Mary responds to this unbelievable information being very polite to this stranger:
Luke 1:38 CEB
38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Mary is alone. Who should she tell this story to? Not supposed to be alone with a stranger, so cannot tell mom or dad. Maybe the best thing to do is ignore it like it never happened. Besides if I am pregnant I will know soon enough. How long does Mary wait in silence, waiting? Luke tells us she did not wait at all. Luke says she got up and immediately went to see Elizabeth. It would not have been a short trip to where Elizabeth lived. A young girl could not make the journey by herself. Luke leaves the details out. But Mary had to see if Elizabeth was really six months pregnant. She had to see for herself. Then what would Mary say to dad? No one will believe this story.
Luke 1:40–45 CEB
40 She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry. 43 Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”
Mary receives the confirmation she was looking for. I cannot believe the weight of the burden that Mary suddenly feels. What happens now? There is no doubt that Mary shares her story with Elizabeth. Maybe the mature woman gives advice to the young Mary on what to say to mom and dad. What we receive from Mary is a song, a Psalm:
Luke 1:46–55 CEB
46 Mary said, “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! 47 In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. 48 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored 49 because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name. 50 He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. 51 He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. 52 He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed. 54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, 55 just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”
Mary’s Song, Our Song
Mary enters her Advent with a song. At the Advent of Jesus, the angels break open heaven with a song. Through the centuries since that Advent night, the Church has centered its celebration and worship around a song. It is by a song that the Church breaks the silence.
But Mary’s song is just the beginning of her journey. She must carry the male child. She will struggle through labor and childbirth. She will try to be a regular mom in raising this unique child. She watches and trembles when He leaves home to begin His ministry. She will request that water be transformed into wine. She will watch and see her son executed at the hands of the powerful Roman Empire. Her hope for her son and the words of the stranger so long ago that he would be king and his kingdom would never end, died on that fateful day. Had it all been a dream?
The Promise Is Still In the Dance
As a believing Church, we know how the story ends. Even though the Kingdom sometimes seems remote we still believe. We carry on the work and the proclamation in worship and song. The celebration of Advent is in the dance that is surrounded and embraced by the song.