Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
We’re almost there. Our advent journey is almost over. In just a few more days we will celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. But hold on….it’s still a few more days away. Our Advent journey is not over and that means we have to wait just a little longer. For many people that’s good news because there are still so many preparations to be made before the big celebration. People are still busy shopping – or just beginning their shopping. There’s packages to wrap, food to prepare, houses to clean, and the anxiety is beginning to increase with each day, and for those who are grieving any kind of loss the closer to Christmas, the anxieties are heightened even more. We’re racing faster and faster and forgetting that Advent is about slowing down and savoring the journey. We’ve forgotten over the years that there are twelve days of Christmas, which don’t begin prior to December 25th, but start on the 25th and end on Jan. 6th, the day of Epiphany. In some countries like Italy, children don’t receive their presents until Epiphany when the wise men brought the gifts to the baby Jesus.
But most of us don’t want to wait for presents or anything else. We drive fast, and talk fast. We’ve got fast food, and fast internet. We want our prayers answered right away and many want our worship services to be as short as possible. People are just too busy to “stop and smell the roses” and therefore Advent is a season that is hard for people to grasp. We’re all so used to living in the future, or the past, that we can’t appreciate the present for the gift that it is, until something so unexpected and profound happens that bam….it turns our world upside down.
And that’s exactly what happened to Mary and Elizabeth in our story from Luke’s gospel today. Mary receives unbelievable news from the angel that she is going to be the mother of God’s son! Elizabeth can’t believe that Mary went to visit her and share the great news! The baby inside Elizabeth jumped for joy! And Mary sings a beautiful, yet powerful song in the midst of all this! Yes, that’s what I said. In the midst of all this unbelievable news that two insignificant women received, Mary sings. She sings about how wonderful God is not only to her, but to everyone for all generations to come. She sings about how God is going to turn everything upside down. She sings about how God is going to finally help all those lowly and marginalized people and raise them up. She sings about how God is going to save everyone according to the promises God made generations ago. In the midst of all the chaos, and uncertainty, and unbelievable news, Mary sings. That’s not the first thing most of us would do when we get unbelievable news is it?
Yet Mary shows us what it means to be a faithful disciple. We’ve all received unbelievable news. Sometimes it’s great news and we do feel like singing. Other times it’s devastating news and singing is the last thing we want to do. But Rev. David Lose, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, says that singing is an act of resistance and that’s not the way we usually think of singing. He points out how slaves to worship God but also as an act of protest to those who enslaved them. He tells the story about the protesters in Leipzig who gathered together every Monday evening by candlelight around St. Nikolai church – the church where Bach composed so many of his cantatas – to pray and sing for the Berlin Wall to finally come down. Over two months their numbers grew from a little more than a thousand people to more than three hundred thousand, over half the citizens of the city, singing songs of hope and protest and justice, until their song shook the powers of their nation and changed the world. (Later, when someone asked one of the officers of the Stasi, the East German secret police, why they did not crush this protest like they had so many others, the officer replied, “We had no contingency plan for song.”!)”
Singing is more than just a way to express emotions. It’s more than just melodies and harmonies. Singing is a powerful force that can change people’s hearts and change the world. Singing is a brave and courage act and one that is more powerful than the violence that we hear and see going on around us. And you don’t have to think you sing good in order to sing. So today my sermon is a shorter one to give us time to worship God with our voice – to stand up against the darkness and bravely sing as an act of resistance. I’m going to ask you to get your blue hymnals and turn to song 781 – My Life Flows On in Endless Song – and sing it with me. As you do listen to the words. It’s been said that singing is praying twice. As the season of Advent draws to its close and we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus and we await his second coming, keep on singing. No matter what circumstance you find yourself in, keep on singing, because God’s promises are true. Keep on singing because God loves us and will never leave us. And that’s news worth singing about! Amen!