Advent 4 – Luke 1:46-55
“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (Luke 1:46)
(This is a revised 2009 reflection. In my new 2012 Advent reflections I’m ignoring more traditional interpretations of the Advent/Christmas scriptures. Of course, you may read this and think, “Hey Larry, this 2009 piece is also ignoring the obvious!”)
What can the modern bearer of Mary’s good news say that will feel different for this year, for this moment?
Advent has obligations. Christmas is habit. Here comes Mary again.
The mind wanders momentarily. Maybe the preacher reads these words in the heat of a fading summer, diligently planning the sermons she’ll proclaim four months later. Or maybe her colleague, another preacher across town or across the continent, ponders Luke 1:46-55, Mary’s magnificat we declare it, a few panicked hours before he slouches toward that pulpit. He’s procrastinated, the Advent days have been busy, the demands relentless. Next year he’ll plan better. And yet, whether in the calm of a summer’s day of long-range sermon preparation or with a bleary-eyed and desperate stare at those holy verses printed on the thinnest of pages, both share a nagging thought: What to say?
Whether you’re fresh from seminary with a burning ache to proclaim the Gospel or you’re nearing retirement and spend more time analyzing pension benefits than scriptural, it’s the same. The same. You’ve heard Mary’s words most of your young or old life. Joseph has annually dreamed and the shepherds will tremble as the angelic—ho-hum—chorus voices a perfect alleluia. By the first Sunday of Advent, when your sermon never mentions an inn without room or wandering magi, every store, elevator and radio station is already silent-nighting you into seasonal and spiritual numbness.
Preachers know they’re not alone. Those folks in the tear-stained pews, on the same hardwood their grandparents’ occupied, are experiencing similar reactions. And even if it’s not old oaken seats the derrieres spread across, but cushy chairs in a sparkly-bright contemporary sanctuary with digital bells and high-tech whistles, it’s likely still the same. The congregation has been silent-nighted also. They know the essential celebrations of this Holy Season: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas Eve. Did I put those days in proper order? Oops, I forget the holy day of the last time for free shipping. Should we call that Postal Tuesday? Don’t worry, everyone will be reminded of the last day, hour, moment when the package you must send to Uncle Speaks Too Loud or Auntie Smells Funny will arrive in time for the festivities. Continue reading →