Each of us bears God into the world, like Mary, in ways only we can do, and we witness this to each other so together all can see the Magnificat promise coming to birth among us and in the world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Fourth Sunday of Advent, year C
texts: Luke 1:39-45, plus Luke 1:46-55 (the Magnificat, appointed as the psalm for today)
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
I have no idea what it feels like to have a child leap inside me.
I have laid my hands on Mary’s stomach and felt it. But unlike her, I had to wait nine months to hold my child for the first time.
Some of us – men and women – just aren’t able to be pregnant. We can’t know what it’s like. Some of us choose not to be pregnant. Some have to wait far more than nine months to hold their child, and some who want to never get the opportunity.
So there is much some of us don’t know. We don’t know what it’s like to have another person growing and moving inside us. We don’t know what the signs feel like that things are changing, becoming. And I, for one, sometimes feel I’ve missed something important.
That’s a good thing to remember this Advent. Not sensing the signs, unable to feel the changes, unaware of growth and becoming, this mostly seems to be where we live today in a world waiting for God’s healing.
This beautiful song of Mary is full of promise. But is it happening?
Now, if the lowly are lifted up and the mighty cast down, the rich sent away empty while the hungry are fed, that means we’re likely going to lose some position, we know. Overturning everything about how this world works means we who are close to the top of the world’s order are going to lose ground.
But I believe, deep down we’re actually fine with that. We might think we’d fear it, but who among us wouldn’t be glad of a lesser lifestyle for the sake of peace and harmony in the world, and no poverty or hunger anymore? We’d get used to a simpler way pretty easily, and be able to see the joy of God’s grace filling everyone.
The problem is we don’t see signs this beautiful song is more than Mary’s dream. The proud are still full of conceit, the rich are getting richer, and the lowly are falling further behind. The hungry, well, let’s just say they’re not sitting back satisfied after being filled with good things.
What are we to make of this? Are we just repeating centuries of wishful thinking by singing with Mary?
Our answer might be in one simple truth about these women today: they’re pregnant. As we’ve said, pregnancy for many of us is waiting without direct experience of what’s going on. Only the pregnant ones can sense what’s happening.
So do you remember that Jesus and Paul both used the image of pregnancy and birth to describe God’s activity in the world?
Two men, who, like me, were never pregnant, saw pregnancy as a perfect model for how God is healing the world. They speak of longing for the birth of God’s kingdom, and the pain of the birth pangs as it arrives. Thinking about the Magnificat as pregnancy reveals something important about God: the Triune God’s going to take time to heal this world.
Pregnancy is necessary in animals because it takes time, in every species, for an infant to grow to the point where it can live on its own. God apparently feels the same thing about the kingdom. It can’t simply be dropped into the world. It needs to grow and develop and become what it needs to be.
Look at where we are right now in this story of the Incarnation. God begins this salvation by living in a womb for nine months. That’s patience. The Son of God takes years to grow to adulthood before beginning ministry. That’s patience. God continues this ministry by calling and inspiring and transforming people one at a time to bear Christ in the world. That’s patience.
The Magnificat will be fulfilled by God’s plan, as more and more bear God into the world. It just needs time.
So: if we’re a part of this pregnant grace of God, what can each of us bear and know that others can’t?
What movement of God can any of us feel that we can invite others to feel in us?
The remarkable thing about how God is bringing life and healing is not only that it takes time. It takes a lot of people, each gifted differently. These two women, Mary and Elizabeth, give birth to two astonishing sons, John and Jesus, who transform the world. That’s impressive. But not unique. Because we are all called to bear God’s life into the world.
So, what are you able to carry of God to full birth that other’s can’t? Do you bear God’s mercy? God’s patience? Can you carry God’s wisdom? God’s joy? Are you one who can help others see it’s OK to let go of things, to be a part of this Magnificat overturning?
God continues to be born in this world in us, and each of us will see signs others don’t, and bear God in ways others can’t.
Mary and Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth, remind us to do this.
These four are unremarkable people, ordinary people. But when they were asked to be a part of God’s birth into the world, they agreed.
If we’re waiting for someone else to do this, the world will have an even longer wait for God’s reign of peace. So each of us can follow these four and listen for where we are needed, for what we can do that others can’t, and then say yes.
What’s also lovely is that they support each other.
Mary goes to see Elizabeth, and these two women who’ve never done this before rejoice with each other. Help each other.
This we can do. We can help each other in our God-bearing in the world.
Because it’s not just helping others. It’s also how we get to see, feel, know from another person. Both these women are helper and helped. Elizabeth’s Spirit-given insight helps Mary know that her child is in fact what she was told. And Mary gives Elizabeth hope that her God is coming into the world.
This birthing of God’s grace and love into the world isn’t going to be easy to see. Sometimes we might not even know what we’re called to do. Sometimes we’re not going to feel strong enough to do what we’re pretty sure we’re called to do.
So we support each other, rejoice with each other, help each other. And we see things we could never have seen on our own.
In a way, the whole healing reign of God is a pregnancy.
That puts us all, and the whole universe, inside the womb of God. When Paul says in Athens that God is the One “in whom we live and move and have our being,” that’s a deeply feminine image of God. We live and move and have our being in God because we are in God’s womb, along with the whole creation, waiting for the birth of what God is doing.
But at the same time, each of us is bearing God in our own ways, pregnant with God’s life for the world, witnessing to what we’re experiencing, listening for signs of what we’re waiting for.
So let’s wait together, and tell what we see. Let’s let others feel God leap within us. Because then we’ll all know that we’re waiting for the real thing, for life, for God. And that God’s reign is being born even now among us.
In the name of Jesus. Amen