December 17, 2018
Rev. Laura Fitzpatrick Nager is the Senior Associate Minister at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme.
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
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.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’?
The scene at Elizabeth’s between friends is one of great joy, perhaps akin to seeing a dancing child in front of the Christmas tree at dawn on Christmas morning. We’ve been waiting for love’s call this Advent, listening for the ancient faith story to remind us once again that glory outshines despair and fear makes room for the birth of blessings. Standing on the threshold of her new life, Mary sings the ancient hymn of Thanksgiving, the Magnificat, taken from Hannah’s poem in the book of Samuel.
Luke’s birth narratives wake us up to Mary’s point of view. And who her God is. Like Mary and Elizabeth, we’re offered magnifying glasses to see everything in a new, shining light. For the moment, human brokenness, forced exile and power plays are nowhere in the background.
We hear the rare sound of Mary’s voice announcing our God who works miracles through the ordinary. She sings how God has “done great things for me... 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.” (Luke 1.52-53)
Recently, I saw a shimmering photograph of Malala Yousafzi who won the Nobel Peace prize in 2012 at the age of 17. On this autumn day she was standing near a photograph of herself newly placed in the National Portrait Gallery in London, England. Now a college student, this unassuming young woman changed the world when she stood up to extremism on her school bus years ago and was shot. Amazingly, Malala recovered and has gone on to spread her cry of freedom for girls and young women denied the right to an education. She admitted, “Once I had asked God for one or two extra inches in height, but instead he made me as tall as the sky, so high that I could not measure myself.”
Love arrives and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet, if we are bold, loves strikes away the chains of fear
From our souls.
--Maya Angelou, Touched by an Angel
Touched by an angel, the arc of unconditional love invites us in to sing Mary’s tune. In this holy season, may we all join in saying yes to love, whatever the costs and unexpected gifts.
Dear God of Sacred Surprises, May we all join in saying yes to love, whatever the costs and the unexpected joys as we await once again the birth of Jesus, Light of the World. Amen.
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The United Church of Christ in Devon
United Churches of Durham UCC
North Canaan Congregational Church
East Granby Congregational Church, UCC
First Church of Christ, Congregational in East Haddam
This Week in History:
Dec. 19 1843, (175 years ago) Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is published. The story of a miser who learns the meaning of charity through the visits of three ghosts on Christmas Eve was written in just 6 weeks and became popular almost instantly. The story remains one of the most well-known fictional stories associated with Christmas.
Starting With Scripture: December 17, 2018 , by Laura Fitzpatrick-Nager.