Rejoice!          Luke 1:26—56           December 18, 2016    Advent 4

Listen, watch and/or read Sunday’s sermon below:

Today we sing of Mary. Of all that Mary did to bring God in the flesh into the world for us. And all that Mary did was say yes. Mary said yes to God’s impossible request, brought to her by the angel who assured her that nothing with God is impossible. Mary said yes to carrying and bearing a child like no other – a child brought into her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit.  She did not say, “why me” but instead, “how can I” followed up by “I am God’s – I will do this. Yes.”

It’s a miracle she said yes, don’t you think? But what’s the backstory? Maybe the angel Gabriel had been around to many other homes that night – to the palaces of kings, visiting daughters of royalty, daughters with names. Maybe it had been a long night for the angel with a constant chorus of “no, no, no” being flung at him. Maybe Mary was his 13th visit or his 73rd. Because can you imagine saying yes to this?

And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

Mary said yes to bringing love into the world based on very little evidence of how it was all to go. She said yes to the disapproving stares of her townsfolk as her unmarried belly grew. She said yes to the possibility of being cast aside by Joseph, not having a secure future. She said yes to laboring in a barn, lying in pokey, stiff straw with the smell of animal all around. She said yes to raising a child who would be homeless and would value the kingdom of God over his loyalty to family dinner time. She said yes to watching his arrest. She said yes to watching him go to the cross.

Isn’t this the essence of faith? Saying yes to things you would not choose or plan or ever think could happen, whether you want them or not? What a beautiful and terrible gift this is, this life of faith, this favor we have found in God.

Mary’s yes was not about her. It was not so that she would be great. The song that she sings, that we sang with her this morning, is a song about what she knows to be true about God. What she has seen God do and what she knows God will do. She sang, and we sing a song of God’s yes to Mary, God’s yes to the world.

God’s mercy is for those who fear God from generation to generation.  God has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.  God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.  God has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of God’s own mercy, according to the promise God made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

God’s love song is never a solo. It’s why we gather. It’s why we sing so that we can remember that this promise is for us. We, too, are favored ones of God. God has said yes to us long before we could even must ours back. It is not an easy “yes” we say to faith, to what God wants us to do. But we don’t say, “why me?” we say, like Mary did, “how can we?”  And, as we live into this wonderful, terrible gift of life as God’s favored, called to love all of God’s favored, it’s enough to cause our hearts to rejoice.