Let us Pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, Incarnate One. Amen.
This is the last Sunday of Advent. Our waiting is almost over. But just what are we waiting for? We are waiting for the coming of Jesus, Emmanuel, the Incarnate One, who is Christ the Lord. Every year we celebrate anew his coming. But he doesn’t come just once a year. He eternally comes each time we unlock the doors of our hearts. Every moment, every decision we make is another opportunity to let the Lord of Life be Sovereign over us.
Even though it is a bit of an archaic term, yes, sovereign is what I mean,. It is a term that means King-of, with all the responsibilities of King-ness vested within it. True kingship is when, like the ruler Micah describes, the shepherd looks after and protects the sheep. Not that we are that mindless, although sometimes I wonder, when, in the heat of certain parenting moments my mind does tend to shut off and I just react. O, Lord, forgive me those times! Micah describes the ideal Sovereign as one “who will stand” and one “who will shepherd.”
To further develop the concepts of “stand” and “shepherd,” let us turn to Isaiah’s description: “He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep” (40:11). I might just point out that it could be beneficial in light of next year’s upcoming elections if we hold this Biblical example up to all the candidates parading about for leadership positions. Such a comparison might actually illuminate who are shepherds and who are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
For that matter, we might just keep those lenses on and take a look at the global stage. Just what is happening around the world today? Do we have any good shepherds? The news is telling us refugees are fleeing from their native lands, pushed out by unfriendly forces slicing off pieces of their homeland. Without sounding to naïve, why does this keep happening? Why must a broken history keep repeating itself?
Micah writes of the time when the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell before the might of the Assyrians and the Southern Kingdom of Judah paid tribute to keep them at bay. In that far-off Biblical time, roughly, 730 years before Christ, the same news on the street was also being played out. Refugees came flooding into the Southern kingdom of Judah, fleeing from the Assyrians who took their land by force and gave it to their own and to those loyal to them. Slices of western Judah were also being eaten bit by bit by the Assyrian Empire and given to the Philistines.
During this time, to keep the Assyrians away from the Southern kingdom, Judah was made to pay tribute – a tribute that apparently was snatched from the poor by the wealthy ruling classes while they held on to what they considered their own, even if it wasn’t.
In the Middle East today, in Africa, in Asia, In Europe even, and indeed, right back in the same place that Micah wrote from in Palestine, these same stories and struggles are repeating themselves. And here we are in the fourth Sunday of Advent, waiting for the Savior to come.
There once was a mighty woman of prayer. Her name was Hannah. She prayed in a time when there was no justice, no peace, no righteousness, so she prayed for a just king. God led her son Samuel to two peasants, Saul and David, who, for a time, did just that. But as we know through the eyes of history, even though David is lifted up as the king of Israel’s Golden Age, both he, Saul, and David’s son Solomon became overcome with the temptations of power, which eventually led to the destruction of the Israelite kingdoms.
Micah, a prophet hundreds of years later, is convinced that once again, God will raise someone up on behalf of those who are unjustly subjugated, exploited, and demoralized; and moreover it will be someone from ancient days, one of David’s own house. What is this? A prophesy of redemption already built into the story! What about our story? Is there a built-in redemption for us in our time?
Commentator Stephen Boyd writes,
“Micah’s people saw so much greed and deception in high places. Could they … believe that “the one of peace,” whose only weapon is gentleness, would win for them security and safety, when they experienced so much violence around them? Could they believe that someone from little, out-of-the-way Bethlehem would be “great to the ends of the earth”? Can we?”
This is where we must hear from Mary. She has visited her kinswoman in the hill country. Elizabeth is in her final trimester, and Mary stays on through to the end, no doubt learning much about the ways of birth and motherhood in preparation for her own. There, both women are visited with ecstatic experiences from the Holy Spirit and burst into songs of praise-and, lest yet be wooed inappropriately, also songs of revolution.
Rev. Dr. Tom Long, identifies the Magnificat, the song Mary sings in today’s text, as a crossroads where the incarnation hooks into eschatology. Those of you who get excited ruminating on theological terms know that, in effect, Mary is singing about the bare shoots, those at the bottom of the socio-economic sector of her time, wagering that all floats on the faith of hope in a future that is not seen. But what both Mary and Elizabeth realize in their revelations is that the one who takes care of refugees is coming in the clouds and will take care of all of us.
These revolutionary words Mary sings speak of a turning upside down of the status quo. Rich going away empty, the hungry filled with good things, powerful knocked out of their thrones, and the lowly lifted up.
For the underdogs of the world, this is music to the ears. “Finally, we get something – justice? Righteousness? A fair share?” However, to the seats of power, this is counter to their design of holding on to their power indefinitely. “No, this is mine, we cannot let them have it.”
Perhaps, if God would send us a prophet again, we might hear and understand this message once more: “From you, O Bethlehem, shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel….” And perhaps, when that One comes, we will once more learn what true sovereignty and kingship is supposed to be.
May all glory be unto the One who lived and died and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
 Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.
Lectionary Readings for December 20, 2015: Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year C
- First Reading Micah 5:2-5a
- Canticle Luke 1:46b-55
- Psalm Psalm 80:1-7
- Second Reading Hebrews 10:5-10
- Gospel Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)
Question for Reflection
Where do you see the light of Christ magnified in your person, your life, and the ways of your family and community? Notice in the coming week one time each day when the light of Christ is made present for you by others.
Household Prayer: Morning
Thank you, good and gracious God, for the morning light, for another day in which to live out what it means that you have magnified my soul and the souls of those around me in this world.
Teach me the meaning of “Let it be.” Show me how to trust; in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
Good and gracious God, we give you thanks that you have made incarnate in your world the breath of life, the life of hope. Keep us safe throughout the night that in the morning we may again rejoice and live in peace with all creation; in Jesus’ name. Amen.