December 6, 2015 | Luke 1: 26-38 and 46-56 | Rev. Nancy Talbot –
I don’t know whether you heard the news this week or not. Apparently after the two days that are good for the economy, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there is a group in Canada that has declared December 1st Giving Tuesday. On their website they say “Now we have a day that is good for the community too.”
Wow! A whole day dedicated to giving, an entire 24 hours for thinking of the community. This morning we gather around the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who dedicated not just one day of one month, to giving to the community but who gave her entire life for the sake of bringing peace and goodwill to the world.
Over the years Mary has been depicted by artists and the church in general as meek and mild at best and submissive and subjugated at worst. Consequently, she has become for many women a source of disempowerment. I am therefore delighted that the North Shore Chorus who in a few moments when they sing for us Mary’s song, the Magnificat, they are going to do that with such power and energy that we will be completely disavowed of any illusions we might have about Mary being weak, or fragile.
Far from being submissive and immature, if we pay attention to the writer of Luke’s gospel we will see that Mary was a presence to be reckoned with. In fact, some artists portray the angel Gabriel kneeling before her as he approaches her to deliver the news that she is to conceive and bear in her womb a son, indicating that for as much as Gabriel is favouring her, he is also seeking her favour in return. He’s on bended knee perhaps wondering if she will receive him at all.
And although she appears startled when he first appears, just like Gideon and Jacob and Jonah and the shepherds on the hills outside of Bethlehem who are also startled by similar appearances, she’s no pushover when it comes to receiving the good and favoured news the angel has to deliver to. Just what sort of greeting is this she asks? And then when Gabriel obliges her with an explanation she challenges him in response “How can this be? I am a virgin, a woman without a husband?
Make no mistake about it. God chose a strong woman when God chose Mary to be the mother of the Son of God, perhaps because God knew it would take a lot of fortitude to be the mother of this child. And notice how she makes her decisions independent of what her fiancé Joseph might think or her parents or her closest friends. She doesn’t ask for time to consult with them or get their permission before she makes up her mind whether or not she will say yes to this request. Here is a woman standing on her own two feet, making a choice about giving of herself for the sake of her people, a gift she is honoured to make.
And when she speaks of what it is she he giving her life to and for, what she says, what she sings about is nothing short of a political manifesto. The Good News of the gospel for Mary is all about equality and justice, it’s about the freedom of her people, lifting up the lowly and bringing down the mighty, filling the hungry and sending the rich away with less. It’s a project, a vision of the world she is ready and willing to give her life to and for which she is needed if it is to come to pass. It’ can’t happen without her yes. And it can’t happen today without ours.
In a minute, as we listen to the North Shore Chorus sing the words that Mary sang when she discovered she was carrying in her womb the Light of the World, I invite each of us is to ponder this question “what is the good news I long to sing about”
If I were a refugee, surely I would sing about finding the safety of a new home, not just for my own family but for all families. If I were a labourer perhaps I’d sing about fair wages. If I were the parent of a soldier, or someone living in the midst of conflict maybe I would sing about lasting peace. If I were a farmer, I might sing about my hope for a greener world. If I were a doctor my song might be about a cure. If I were dying my song might be for the future of the planet I am about to leave behind. If one of my loved ones had been shot dead in a massacre south of the border or at L’Ecole Politechnique in Montreal, I’d be singing a song about gun control and the right of all people for self-determination.
Mary gave the gift of her life for the good news about which she sang, I wonder what the good news is you long to sing about?