Thursday, December 27, 2012

How Do You Hear?

Luke 1:39-55, How Do you Hear? Advent IV
I Can Hear Music
Let’s consider How WE hear Mary’s words, her ‘song’ as it is known.
Whenever I think about listening to a song - I hear One of my favorites, “I Can Hear Music” by the Beach Boys. ..
”This is the way I always dreamed it would be...the way that it is, when you are holding me...I can hear music, I can hear music” and at the end of the song it repeats, “I hear the music all the time...”

I think from the time the angel Gabriel first surprised Mary with the outrageous news of her pregnancy, Mary could hear the music all the time. . .   I don’t think she was singing, “this is the way I dreamed it would be”... Because who could have imagined, let alone dreamed of becoming pregnant before marriage, at a time when that shame would have been life-threatening.  .  .But I do think, from that first day on, she ‘could hear the music all the time.”

Do You Hear What I Hear?
Basically Mary is singing to Elizabeth and everyone around her, 
“Do you hear what I hear?” 
For generations, commentators have speculated about why Mary went to see Elizabeth. (ASK?)

MINE: I think since Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth had conceived too, Mary went to ask her, “Do you hear what I hear?”  
Surely at that point, she must have longed to talk with someone else who has experienced Divine Intervention.

Divine Intervention
There’s a song by Taking Back Sunday called, “Divine Intervention” Those lyrics are, “Despondent, distracted, vicious and romantic; these are a few of my favorite things” 
I can’t image the range of emotions Mary went through as she Accepted and affirmed God’s message, feeling the growth inside her. Even before she could feel a kick, her body was changing to accept the new life within.

The lyrics of Divine Intervention continue to say, “Something real, make it timeless, an act of God and nothing less will be accepted.” 

Surely Mary wondered how anyone else would ever know that this life inside her WAS an act of God. . . But Elizabeth. .she knew.
She knew about what happens when God answers “Yes” to prayer.  So only Elizabeth could understand what was happening to Mary after she said, “Yes” to God.

My Soul Proclaims with Wonder
we’ve already sung a song about ‘Mary’s Song’  “My soul proclaims with wonder the greatness of the Lord”, AND we’ve heard the scripture read from 2 very different viewpoints, 
I chose some other songs to help relate to Mary’s words. Maybe that seems silly, but let me explain with a tiny bit of history. 
“Mary’s song inspired the ‘Feast of Fools’, a name given to some of the Christmas celebrations for centuries throughout the church. 
It became a literal acting out of the Magnificat. . .a witness to the God ‘whose inclination is to topple human power structures and to raise the downtrodden to a position of honor and feasting’

But it was a rather ‘odd’ witness.

Holly Jolly Christmas
“Throughout medieval and early modern Europe, Christmas was a time for festive reversals of status. As early as the ninth century, a mock patrriarch burlesqued the Eucharist, and rode thru the streets on a donkey bringing it right into the church. 
As late as 1685, lay brothers and servants put on the priests’ vestments inside out, held the worship books upside down..wore spectacles with rounds of orange peel instead of glasses.. 
They blew the ashes from incense on each other... and instead of proper liturgical chant, they mumbled gibberish.”

It makes some of my silly Christmas songs about Santa stuck in a chimney, sound tame!  . . Maybe we should get silly too. Instead of “God rest you merry gentlemen” I heard,  
The restroom door said Gentlemen
And I would like to find
The crummy little creep who had the nerve to switch the sign
Are you Surprised? I now think that Burl Ives had it right when he sang, “It’s a ‘Holly Jolly Christmas’”! 
(ASK: What’s your favorite crazy Christmas song?)
Grandma run over...

Sometimes we need to lighten up. It helps us Re-examine our concerns about what is proper and right in order to open our ears to God’s ‘Song in the Air’ or be able to see a miraculous ‘Star In The Sky’ . . . What would it take for you to look up and really expect a miracle on an ‘O Holy Night’?

It might take some drastic side-splitting laughter, to remind US that the God who created life in Mary and Elizabeth, means to turn our ideas of what is ‘just and proper’ upside-down.

Do You Hear What I Hear? 
If any of today’s actors, or people in the Christmas story were to ask us, “Do you hear what I hear?” we would have to say, “I don’t think so...” . . But just two days before Christmas, in 2012,
two days after we survived the Mayan prediction of the “end of the world, as we know it..” (that’s another song lyric, BTW) 
I don’t think, answering “I don’t hear” is good enough.

We have to admit that IT IS hard for us to hear God’s good news the way Mary did. We are as different from her and her world, as our poor young woman is from the rich young man of the 1st century.

If I listen from the perspective of wealth - which is how the rest of the world see us in the USA, then Mary’s song is depressing, if not actually scarier than the ‘end of the world.’
Especially these lyrics, 
“He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 
He has brought down the powerful, 
he has sent the rich away empty.” 

It reminds me of the Bible study we did a couple years ago. After an intense overview of Jesus’ message aimed at one well-off person after another, we asked, Is there any good news here for us?”
ASK: How do Mary’s words make you FEEL?
 Are they a promise... Or a threat?... 

Elaine Heath wrote a book about the ‘threat the church faces, The Mystic Way of Evangelism. She wonders if Mary's message is to the Christian church in America today.  I think we have reminisced like this person she wrote about; 
"Recently, she says, a church member mentioned the “good old days” when we had to put up folding chairs in the aisles on Easter Sunday [& Christmas]". . . .Do you remember those days?

Heath asks, “Is God at work wrenching our alluring memories of the church’s social prominence and significance from our minds?
Ripping dreams of fame and fortune from our imaginations?. 
Is God inviting us to let go of that old image of ‘church’ and the accompanying dreams and memories?"
 . . . .so we learn how to welcome Gabriel’s message for 2013/our day?   

. . .
“Fling wide the door, unbar the gate” is another Christmas carol, #186 in our hymnal
Can we be as open as Mary to God when life doesn’t fit our ideas of ‘proper and right’?

Good News
There IS good news here for us. Even if it takes, a little chorus of, “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” to loosen us up to hear it.
“God does not obliterate the powerful so the lowly can take their  places. (or our places?) 
Rather God is at work in individual lives (like Mary's) AND in the social order as a whole -
God is at work In order to subvert the very structure of society that supports the distinctions”
 that keep people apart. . . .
- - the Walls that exist between powerful and powerless, 
rich and poor, in and out, privileged and disadvantaged.

When we look closely at today’s scripture we find clues all thru it that are good news for US. 

“God’s reversal of fortunes is not intended to raise violent resistance or drive the wealthy and powerful to despair.” We are to hear this ‘Good News’ the way Jesus preached it in story and parable. & even in song --- With listening ears and enlightened eyes.  With our hearts opened- - - -perhaps by laughter. 

Then we can really hear the “reminder, to deal with our wealth in a way that brings us into a positive relationship with the poor in order for ALL of US  to partake in the same promised salvation.”

We really are ALL singing the same song. And Christmas is the perfect time to realize it.

WE, regardless of our individual wealth or position, 
or what we miss about the former ‘good ol’ days 
-are to maintain circles of ‘kinship’ with everyone, so that we can FEEL the need and the hunger - 
FEEL the loneliness and the grief around us -
So we will naturally reach out a hand to help. . .(softly) our sisters and our brothers. 

It’s Together that we, ‘Come ----  all ye faithful’...
Thomas Kinkade

  And we do sing 
“That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,  who touch their harps of gold;

Right Now, as we all join in the: “Peace on the earth, & good will to people we can really mean ALL, ALL kinds of people.

The end
1 quoted from Harris, Carnival, 140 from E. K. Chambers, The Medieval Stage (London: Oxford Univ.Press, 1903), 1:317-18
2 Charles L. Campbell Feasting On The Word (Lousiville: WJK, 2009)96-7

3 ibid p. 97 quoted from Carnival

5 Charles L. Campbell  Feasting On The Word Homiletical (Louisville: WJK, 2009)93
6 Stephen A. Cooper Feasting On The Word Exegetical (Louisville: WJK, 2009)97

Blessing and Sending
May the God of justice be your path,
The Lord of mercy be your guide,
And the Spirit of love be your light,
This day and forevermore.
7 Kimberly Bracken Long, ed Feasting on the Word Worship Companion (Louisville:WJK,2012)19

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