<Listen along to the sermon to hear a bit of the singing that happened. Sermons are best heard! You can do that by clicking here.>
39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” [
46And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
The Songs We Sing
Let us pray:
Fill us with songs of peace, Lord
That we might sing your praise
With our lives
Leaping for joy
At your Christmas again.
My college roommates and I play this game when we watch baseball. Rhonda and I have been known to do it, too. We start to muse about what our “walk up song” would be.
You know about the “walk up song,” right? It’s the song that’s played over the loudspeaker as the batter takes the plate. In most cases individual batters, especially the good ones, can pick their own walk-up songs.
Like Francisco Cervelli, catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, chose “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore…” as his walk-up song. Nori Aoki, who used to play for the Giants (and, unfortunately, the Brewers) but now plays for a Japanese league, had as his walk-up song, “Go, go-Johnny, go go go, Johnny, go go go, go, Johnny B. Good.” And my favorite, Cubbie Kyle Hendricks, chose the Aerosmith Classic, “Sweeeeet Emotion…” as his walk-up song.
The walk-up song sets a tone for what’s about to come. If it’s well-chosen, thought-out, the walk-up song should give everyone watching the game a little glimpse of who you are, what they should expect from you. You’re gonna love Cervelli, that’s amore. Aoki is gonna do something good, watch! Hendricks will fill you with sweet emotion.
So, Beloved, what would the walk-up song of your life be?
Every Christmas we sing a ton of songs, secular and sacred. And the Gospel of Luke is especially full of music. Zechariah gets a song about God keeping God’s promises. The prophet Simeon, who long sits in the temple waiting to see the Messiah, gets a song about seeing the Lord in his old age.
The angels, of course, get a song tomorrow night, as they sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth!” Or, if you’re in the Christmas mood, “Glory to the new-born king!”
But Mary, my friends…Mary gets, I think, Jesus’ walk-up song for the world.
This song that we have today when Mary is visiting her cousin Elizabeth, is God’s walk-up song. It gives us an idea of what Jesus is going to be about.
God will show God’s power not through the might of politics or war, but through being able to lift up the lowly.
God will come on the scene not in the temple or the castle, but in belly of an unknown, unwed peasant girl.
God will walk up to the plate of the earth swinging not a sword, but a terrible mercy and love. Terrible not because it’s bad, but because its so good, so powerful, it causes fear and awe to come upon us because we’ve never been loved to fiercely and aren’t sure what to do with that kind of inconceivable, unconditional love.
My favorite interpretation of Mary’s song is one that follows an Irish tune. “My heart shall sing of the day you bring, let the fire of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn…”
In Jesus the world will turn on its head as God will love so much God will squeeze resurrection out of that Easter tomb and every tomb.
The justice of God’s fire will burn not people, but everything that separates people from one another: prejudice, hatred, phobia, isms.
And God will do it not by waging cosmic war, but by waging love; unimaginable love, the love of a mother to a child and then some. It will be so strong that babies not even born will leap for joy, feeling it before they even breathe…
God will show the “strength of his arm” as Mary says not by flexing the Divine muscles as John the Baptizer had hoped and Judas had wanted, but by reaching down to lift up the lowly.
Which doesn’t seem like much, unless you’re the lowly one…and then it’s everything.
As the song says, God will be generous with the food we too easily withhold, filling hungry bellies, thereby compelling us to do the same.
God is not the Divine soldier marching on the field of battle, forcing humanity into submission, but the Divine baker creating a loaf of love whose aroma will entice us to turn and follow because it just. Smells. So. Good.
This is, Beloved, how God will save: by tempting us with unmitigated mercy and a love so unrelenting that it won’t stop reaching out to humanity again, and again, and again.
God will go to great lengths, jump the cosmos even, as Adele so rightly sings, do anything to “make us feel his love.”
Which, my friends, should compel us to act toward our neighbor with unrelenting love and unmitigated mercy.
Which, Beloved, should compel us to repent from the ways we use the poor to our advantage with our economic schemes and ploys, and begin the process of lifting one another up as we have been uplifted, by God.
God in Jesus shows us that God’s power is found in God’s love. And as the right Reverend William Sloane Coffin of Riverside Church in New York City reminds us, “Love is not powerless, but it seeks to empower, not overpower.”
You know, I am convinced that the songs we sing in this world shape us and form us, and form those around us to know us better.
I’m convinced that the walk-up songs of our lives say something about us. And today, and every Advent, God sings this song through Mary for us again, teaching us the lyrics of a song of power through saving love.
Mary, in response to Gabriel’s visit and what God was doing in her life, sings God’s song of preferential option for the poor and the lowly.
So, Beloved, what’s your walk-up song?
In other words, in response to God’s work in your life, what song are you singing as we end out this year? What song should you sing?