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God prepares the way (December 25, 2022)

A uniform lesson for December 25, 2022.

Uniform Lesson for December 25, 2022
Scripture passage and lesson focus: Luke 1:46-55

If God faced a challenge in making a way for John the Baptist to be born with the aging Zechariah and Elizabeth as his parents, God took on a whole new challenge in making a way for Jesus to be born with the not-yet-married couple of Joseph and Mary. While theologians have mostly argued over the mystery of the virgin birth, there are lots of other mysteries required to keep this story moving. How has this extended family evolved from a mute Zechariah to the Magnificat of Mary? From where did this gift of music come? Elizabeth continues to amaze the reader—from her resounding “no” regarding the naming of her son, to the song she sings upon welcoming Mary into her home. How does she recognize Mary as “the mother of my Lord” when Mary may be only beginning to show (Luke 1:43)? And what about little in-utero John, who does a somersault in his mother’s womb as soon as his newly gestated cousin appears in his house? (Luke 1:41). This story is a story of seeing and believing, even when the light shining in our darkness is faint indeed.

Mary’s trust in what God can do for her

Maybe the deepest mystery of our passage for this day is the mystery of this song’s verb tenses. Really. Think about it. Mary has just been informed she is about to give birth to a “Son of the Most High” whom she will birth without an earthly father (Luke 1:32). When she asks a question about such mechanics, she is simply informed the Holy Spirit will accomplish this (Luke 1:35). As a way of reassuring her, the angel reminds her of her relative Elizabeth who also finds herself pregnant under unusual circumstances, summing up his message with the capper: “for nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). In response, Mary simply responds: “here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Really?

So when Mary, following her greeting by Elizabeth and little John, breaks into song, perhaps we should not be surprised she sings with confidence about things that have not yet happened. She trusts future generations will call her blessed—future tense (v. 48). She gives thanks God has looked with favor on “the lowly state of his servant” – though any shift in her lowliness is not now apparent (v. 48). She declares the Mighty One has done great things for her—though all that’s happened so far is a pregnancy out of wedlock (v. 49). This is a song about faith and trust, mostly in things that are not yet apparent and far from visible. No, a virgin birth is not the only miracle in this story.

Mary’s trust in what God can do for others

But Mary’s faith and trust don’t stop with herself alone. In her narrative, she trusts in a wider story for all those others who fear the Lord yet find themselves on the bottom looking up (v. 50). Again, listen to the tenses. God has shown the strength of God’s arm. God has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly and filled the hungry with good things (vv. 51-53). To sum it up, God has helped his servant Israel according to the promises God made to Abraham and his descendants forever (vv. 54-55). Talk about making a way! This is a song that bursts the bounds of what we think faith can encompass. This is not just a song that celebrates the birth of a baby without a father’s intervention; this is a song that imagines the birth of a whole new world with only God as the subject. How did Mary come to trust in such possibilities—even to the point of song?

Our trust in what God can do for us and for others

And so, this Christmas morning, we must ask ourselves whether we can sing the song of Mary. Yes, this is partly a problem of our own social position. And, yes, this is a challenge for communities that are overly satisfied with the way things are. But this is mostly a matter of moving forward based simply on what God can do versus what we consider feasible. Mary heard Gabriel’s pitch and began marching toward a whole new future—sight unseen. What will get us moving this Christmas morning toward a future we cannot fully see?

For discussion:

What’s the greatest miracle of Christmas for you?

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