December 12, 2010
This is an important Sunday, the third Sunday in Advent, the day when we light the third candle, that of "Joy". It is also called the "Mary candle" in many traditions and in an Advent wreath comprised of purple and rose (pink) candles it is the pink one. Its color sets it apart from the more somber purple associated with penitence. I don't know who first came up with this ritual in the early centuries of Christianity, but for some reason they thought penitence and joy couldn't coexist in the same candle.
Since I decided to use all blue candles in our wreath this year, it's a non-issue around here. Anyway, the joy is overwhelmingly present, coinciding as it does with the half-year anniversary of the day my husband and I made our wedding vows. It doesn't matter what color the candles are; we're still pretty sappy around here.
In entering in to the scripture, I invite you to imagine you are sitting in the room with Mary and Elizabeth, her cousin. When you are ready and centered, invite the Holy Spirit to help you listen.
Prayer: "God my Savior, fill me with a spirit willing to hear you and praise you as Mary did, anticipating the joy that is ours through her willingness to serve you. Amen."
47"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
As noted in the Student Bible, NRSV c. 1996, "Saying yes to God usually involves sacrifice. It did for Mary, who endured the doubts of her fiancé and the scorn of neighbors who saw her pregnant before marriage. Saying yes meant bearing the pain of childbirth. It meant fleeing to far-off Egypt to protect the baby from Herod's soldiers. It meant raising a child she did not entirely understand. Most of all, it meant watching her son die on the cross."
She said yes to all of this perhaps little realizing that the difficult end of Jesus' life would mean allowing him, her Savior, to hold her as she had once held him, a helpless infant. I imagine she hardly thought of the long-term consequences; isn't it grand to trust God as much as that young woman did on the day she prayed and sang the words we read today?
When teaching my confirmation classes, I ask students to write a poem of praise like Mary's in their own words. You might want to do that as well, or instead you might want to read Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of Mary's hymn, called "The Magnificat", from Peterson's work, the Message Bible:
Luke 1:46-55 (The Message)
And Mary said,
I'm bursting with God-news;
I'm dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It's exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
Jesus pulls us out of the mud! He sets us, starving, down at fine tables filled with a banquet. It is definitely the time to anticipate God's healing, our theme for the coming week!
To celebrate, spend some time as you enjoy your Sabbath rest thinking of all the ways you can open your life to God's healing, and give thanks.
Prayer: "With our hearts we praise the Lord. Help us to start this week with a commitment to continue Christ's compassion and caring. Amen."
The following links for further reading today are from the PC(USA), Office of Theology and Worship.
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, December 12, 2010, the Third Sunday of Advent (Year A)