The Fourth Sunday Of Advent
December 23, 2018
Micah 5:2-4; Psalm 80; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-49
The Reverend Manisha Dostert
The Virgin Mary was alone in her room when she is visited by an angel who delivers to her momentous life-changing news. God has chosen her to be the mother of the Savior. And Mary tries to wrap her head around this confounding issue, and she asks a question of logistics: How can this be since I am a virgin? And the Angel Gabriel declares the Holy Spirit will visit her and overshadow her. And finally, Mary offers a response: Here am I, Servant to the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word. The angel departs.
What is the next thing Mary does? Well, she throws her stuff in a suitcase and she hightails it out of there and heads to a hill country in a Judean town. And she goes to see her cousin, Elizabeth. So, this past Friday night, we had Cranbrook Christmas Jazz here. And it was a luminous night, that was filled with beautiful music and song and it lifted up all of our spirits as we awaited for God to intervene into our world to save us from the power of sin. And that concert was free for everybody thanks to the generosity of Christ Church Cranbrook and the Erb Foundation.
And to keep with that tradition of generosity, Father Bill asked that everyone who was present, who received the joy of receiving something that they then give and be generous. And we asked them to give to a place called Sanctum House which is a home that has been created for women who were in bondage to human trafficking and had been rescued and freed and then given hope for a different kind of life, a new one after having experienced such trauma and tragedy.
So, we invited the executive director of Sanctum House, Edee Franklin to come and speak a little bit about the organization before we took up the offering. And Edee arrived early and she was really excited and maybe a little nervous. So, she brought a friend and her friend Barbara who I met said, you know, I’m here for moral support. And when I told Barbara how wonderful that you’re here to support Edee, she smiled and said to me, “Everybody needs a girlfriend.” Everybody does need a girlfriend. Everyone needs another person who can be there for you for moral support, to believe in you, listen to you, wonder with you, tell you when you’re out of our mind and hold your hand when you don’t know what to do.
And what makes a girlfriend unique is not the gender. Any gender can be a girlfriend. What a girlfriend does is help you through the times in your life when you’re trying to deal what has been handed to you. The Virgin Mary needed a girlfriend. She had just ascended to this crazy plan by God although one would argue whether she had much choice in the matter. And she had to come to terms with the fact that her life, her path had now been irreversibly determined by God. And when the angel left her, I imagined that she had all these thoughts careening in her head like a pinball machine and she desperately wanted to be somewhere where she could be with someone who got her, who understood her, who could comfort her and provide that unconditional love. So necessary so she could sort out and navigate the craziness that was her life.
So she goes with haste to her cousin, Elizabeth. I love that the Bible has captured this story of a classic girlfriend encounter. Elizabeth sees her and she knows exactly what Mary needs. Mary needs to be affirmed. She needs to be able to lean on Elizabeth’s joy because she’s so confused about what’s going on. She needs a blessing. So, Elizabeth in one gorgeous move tells her in effect, you go girl, you got this. It’s going to be okay. All will be well. You’ll be fine. And Mary’s response to being affirmed, unconditionally loved and believed in, and to see Elizabeth joy for her and to be assured by Elizabeth that all will be well. Well, Mary responds by singing. A good girlfriend can get you to sing. And this is not just any song. This is the Magnificat. This is Mary pouring out what is deep down in her heart. It’s her inner life, what is going on inside of her. Her dreams for herself. My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior for He has loved with favor on the loneliness of His servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.
And Mary is so comforted, so assured by Elizabeth’s kindness and caring for her that she then can actually voice what she’s really hoping for that God is turning her life upside down because God is actually turning the whole world upside down, and finally there is going to be justice for all and peace for all and food for all and love for all and freedom for all. So, she sings, “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.”
Sometimes, you need to be with a girlfriend to figure out what God’s up to. You and I need one another because we didn’t have a God who said set it and forget it. We had a god who isn’t passive but incredibly active in this world. We have a god who intrudes, who intervenes, who intercedes, who interrupts, who incarnates. The God who Mary and Elizabeth knew who forever altered their lives is not afraid to do that to over and over to you and to me even when we don’t want it.
The Magnificat which has been sung by the church for centuries was banned several times by different regimes throughout the history of this world. In India when the British ruled, churches were prohibited in singing the Magnificat during evensong because the natives might overhear it. In Argentina, when people were disappearing because they stood up against the military regime, mothers would plaster the Magnificat all over the city plazas and the regime saw it. So they outlawed the Magnificat and tore all the copies down, and one wonders about the power that is at work when a teenage girl’s song can disrupt dictatorial regimes. This is the power of God. God invades our space. God changes systems. God topples powers and principalities, and sometimes we need a friend who can walk with us and sort it all out as we try to wrap our head around what God is doing.
Now, the other day, I was trying to understand what God was doing in my life and I was terribly upset, confused and I didn’t know what to make of it. So, I went to my girlfriend who happened to be male in this case. And I shared my problems. And I shared my soul. I shared what I thought. I shared what I thought God was doing. And we spoke about God. And I told him that I thought God was trying to teach me a lesson. But he assured me that God is actually trying to do something wholly different. And I left that conversation hopeful. I left that conversation seeing God anew and trusting in God, I left that conversation singing.
When I got home that night, I spent some time with God and I let God know that I was sorry that I had misunderstood God and I felt kind of bad. I felt like, you know, why couldn’t God and I have figured this out together? Why did I have to involve this third person and sort of gossip behind God’s back? Why couldn’t I go straight to God and ask God what is right and what is wrong and actually receive the answer from God? But then God reminded me about Mary’s story. You see, when that Angel Gabriel comes to visit Mary and tells her, she will have a child of the most high, he also says to her and now your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month for her who is said to be barren for nothing will be impossible with God.
It was God who sent Mary to Elizabeth in the first place and that’s the kind of god we have. Yes, we have a god who comes maddeningly into our lives and makes us pregnant with God’s words and then sends us out to go out into the world while He disrupts everything and turns everything upside down and reverses all the order and then asks us to step out in faith. Yes, we have that god and we have a god who also provides us with girlfriends. Real people, flesh and blood who talk with us, who walk with us, who hold our hands and care for us. Real people who aren’t afraid to recognize who God is and who God isn’t and to be joyous when we are confused.
In fact, God has provided you with a whole church filled with girlfriends. They are priests, they are doctors, they are lawyers, they are teachers, they are moms, they are dads, they are old, they are young, they are rich, they are poor and they are all here to help you and me figure out how to live with this crazy wild wonderful God we have who likes to come into our lives. Who’s your girlfriend? Whose girlfriend are you? As we welcome Christ into our world, as he comes to turn everything upside down, may we walk with one another and tell each other, you got this and may we sing.
[End of Recording]