The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Advent III Sermon – 19 December 2010
The Magnificent Magnificat
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Greenwood, VA
What are the implications of Emmanuel, God With Us. Is it merely to give us comfort, to make us feel blessed in our present circumstances? Is it merely to affirm our selves as we are? What are the implications of Emmanuel, God with us? Is it merely to to affirm the way that we’ve always done things, the way that we’ve always been, the way that we’ve always seen the world?
I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, I spent a great deal of time thinking about what Jesus would be doing if he returned today. What would he be saying, what would he be doing, where would he be traveling, how would he be communicating? And, more pointedly, what would he be saying to me, what would he be doing around here, what would he be saying about the places where I go, what would he be saying about the things that I love to do, what would he be saying about my life. Have you ever engaged in this line of thought? There is, of course, the bracelet that you can buy, “what would Jesus do” and some claim that if only we do as Jesus would do, we’d be ok. Seems obvious enough, after all. We strive to follow Jesus, so why wouldn’t we try to live a life that is, in essence, in his footsteps. The trouble is, it isn’t so obvious. For one thing, we are not really empowered or called to “be” Jesus – afterall, he is the Son of God – fully human and divine, sent to earth for a somewhat radical and scandalous purpose – to die so that we might live. WWJD? Hmmm. Not sure that is exactly what we are supposed to do. Or is it?
What are the implications of Emmanuel, God with us? Another problem with the WWJD is that Jesus already came, he already lived, and taught, and inspired, and healed, and challenged, and liberated, and loved, and offered himself as a gift, once offered, to heal the fundamental break in the world. A gift or an “oblation, once offered, for the sin of the world.” And so, we are the recipients of that gift. What are the implications of Emmanuel, God with us?
Well, in the song of Mary – the Magnificat, Mary sings and prays a song in which she prays that her soul magnifies the Lord – in Latin – Magnificat. And, how well do we know these words? These words have been set to music, music that can lift us up, that can inspire us to hear these words more deeply. However, the music sometimes can pacify the radical nature of the Magnificat. How well do we know these words? How ready are we to hear them. What are the implications of Emmanuel, God with us?
The Song of Mary Magnificat Luke 1:46-55
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.
The song of Mary – mercy on those who fear God – do we fear God, or the next economic downturn. Do we fear God?
Scattered the proud in their conceit – are we proud, how highly do we think of ourselves. Do we regard others’ opinions at least as possibly valid as ours, do we consider that someone else may have a better idea? Do we consider that we may just be full of it most of the time?
Cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. Are we at the top of the world’s economic scale? Just how much stuff do we need, and then we need more? Do we give, to we offer ourselves to others, or are others mere stepping stones to greater glory for ourselves.
Filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. Are we hungry or are we rich? A table grace offers this, “We pray that those who are hungry are fed, and for those who are filled, we pray they hunger for justice.”
What are the implications of Emmanuel, God with us? What would Jesus do? Well, it is hard to know what Jesus would do, if he were to return. However the often-depicted gentle Good Shepherd Jesus often overlooks the fact that a shepherd had to be rather tough and protective. It overlooks the fact that Jesus laid out a program of judgment, in which he consistently predicted that there would be a time of separating the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the righteous from the unrighteous. What would Jesus do?
To walk the way of Jesus is a road that is a challenging one. To walk the way of Jesus is to walk a road that is a great adventure. All too often, the implications of Emmanuel, God with us, may get us to think that God merely blesses our present reality. We may start to think that no transformation is needed. We may start to believe that no change of heart, or change of behavior is demanded. The way of Jesus is an adventure, in part, because it is both inward and outward. For those of us who are rich, who are filled, proud and without fear of the Lord, we have to go deep – to consider the inner transformation that God is making. We then have to look outward. The implications of Emmanuel, God with us are that the blind see, the poor are given good things, the hungry are filled, the prisoners are set free, and the world is turned upside down so that God’s loving-kindness and God’s loving-justice will prevail.
The Magnificat is a wondrous song of praise, and when set to music is a glorious piece. However, don’t let it fool you into complacency. The implications of Emmanuel, God with us are that we are led into the way of Jesus. The path is one that is not always a walk in the park, and it includes many times of carrying our own cross, taking on the challenge and the adventure of following Jesus and helping to create a world in which the blind see, the hungry are fed, the prisoners are set free, the proud are cast down, and the humble are lifted up. The real question is not “WWJD” but rather, what will we do as we follow Jesus. WWWDAWFJ is not as catchy. What will we do as we follow Jesus?