Sermon December 20, 2015
Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)
“Best Supporting Actress”
Last week our pageant began with protestors carrying signs calling for a relevant telling of the Christmas story. The middle school youth and their leaders who wrote the script gave us a glimpse of what the story might look like today: Mary and Joseph could have had a hotel room if they had booked online, the shepherds would have pizza delivered to the fields, everyone would be taking a selfie with the baby Jesus, and there would always be chickens! Think of how many characters it takes to tell this profound story of God’s love. Today we add another character to the story. Elizabeth takes her place as the prophet who sees that Mary is the one who will give birth to the one God sent into the world. Elizabeth is like a supporting actress who may not get much airtime, but plays an important role in this birth story. When these two unlikely mothers meet, we witness the gathering of the one who bears the Messenger and the one who bears the Message.
These two women connect with one another and recognize that they are part of something much larger than themselves. They will change the world as they carry, then nurture John and Jesus. These women have been chosen to carry God’s message of love. Elizabeth is wise and she explains how she knew that Mary was carrying God’s child: her baby leaped in her womb. That moment made me curious about the wisdom and experience of expectant mothers so I asked some to tell me about their babies kicking:
“I was lying on the couch and I could see as she sat up, turned and moved into a head down position. In that moment, I knew the time was drawing near that she would make her appearance in this world. I sat in awe of God's creation. It's amazing how some things in life just happen. A baby doesn't need to be coaxed to flip over, no message is sent saying it's almost time so we need you head down. Our world was carefully crafted into God's beautiful creation. This life, your life and my life were not after thoughts. Sometimes we just need to patiently wait for what God has prepared.”
One mother described her daughter kicking to Brandi Carlisle music and how much she loves music as she continues to grow. She described the sacred connection she experienced with her daughters as they kicked in utero.
A clergy mom said her daughter kicked the most when she was preaching or singing and described a moment where her daughter kicked during her sermon reminding her of Mary and Elizabeth.
Most of the moms I know are doing amazing things as they prepare their children for the world. Yet, even today, mothers are not valued for their wisdom. To put it in economic terms, white women generally make 78 cents to every dollar men make. Black women make 64 cents; Latinas 56 cents and mothers make less than women who don’t have children. (http://money.cnn.com/2015/04/13/news/economy/equal-pay-day-2015/)
Scott Blackstone Johnston said his ninth grade American Government Class held a debate in 1979 about whether they expected to see a woman president in their lifetime. He said,
“As I remember it, the affirmative team argued that the progressive march of history was on their side. After all, it was a documentable fact that women were occupying more and more leadership positions in the business world and in government every day. It was, they argued, only a matter of time. The negative team stated that (while the Constitution did permit it) they had serious doubts as to whether Americans would ever be open to the possibility of a woman being president. Why not? Well, you can imagine the argument. Phrases like "too emotional" and "not tough enough" were tossed about with brutish ease. Then one young fellow, emboldened by his peers, leaned into the table and said, "Yah, and what if she would get pregnant? Can you imagine that, a pregnant president?" Then he shrugged as if that question alone were enough to end all discussion. And in a way it did, for seconds later the debate was abandoned, as a ringing bell sent us scrambling for the hallways, with that guy's challenge echoing in our ears, ‘Can you imagine that, a pregnant president?’” (http://day1.org/1021-head_of_household)
Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent. We are preparing for the holy birth story in a matter of days. It is true that we often take this story more lightly than we should because we know how it turns out, but do we? The story of God coming to the world is being placed in our hands. Here’s the thing: it is ridiculous to think that God chose a young girl like Mary to carry this child until you look around the room and see who God is counting on now.
So what will we do with God who comes to us now, in Albuquerque in 2015? Last week 163 Syrian refugees arrived in Canada. They were greeted warmly with coats and teddy bears for children. Volunteers and federal leaders were on hand to greet them. A children’s choir sang a beautiful song in Arabic to their new neighbors. The traditional song 'Tala' al-Badru 'Alayna' is one of the oldest in Islam. It was sung by the Ansar (Helpers) to the Prophet Mohamed when he sought refuge in their city of Medina and its message is one of welcome and hope.
Some of the words are: “Oh you, who were raised among us
Coming with a word to be obeyed
You have brought to this city nobleness,
Welcome best caller to God's way”
They are hoping to welcome 25,000 refugees by the end of February. Mayor Richard Berry said Albuquerque will welcome refugees. He said, “New Mexico is a big-hearted place and we’ll welcome them to our home like it’s theirs and we’ll work with them.”
I wonder if the kicking in our collective faith community womb is a call to welcome Christ among us today. Remember, he will not arrive in a fancy car with a smartphone. He will come seeking a place to sleep and food to eat. He will come waiting for us to care for him and make room for him. Meister Eckhart, a 13th century German theologian said, “We are all meant to be mothers of God…for God is always needing to be born.”
God needs to be born among us today. This is not a story for women. It is a story for us all. Brett Hart wrote a story called “The Luck of Roaring Camp”. In a tough, lawless mining camp out west in the late 1880’s, a miner discovers a little baby who has been abandoned by his parents. The baby is brought into camp. As soon as the baby is brought into camp, the rough and tumble miners begin to transform. There are clothes to be made, meals to be prepared, washing and tending to be done. Not only are the individual miners transformed, but the whole camp as well. Swearing and fighting, once typical of the camp, now cease. Each man tries to be on his best behavior because of the baby.
The story of Christ’s birth is not about us. It is about God and a love that is greater than we can imagine. We are the supporting actors. We are the ones who prepare the way and announce God’s coming. Let us take our place in the story and make room for God to be born among us once again.