Birth of Possibilities
Sometimes, when I read these passages about Mary, they seem so distant — so far away.
What I mean by that, is that it’s almost unfathomable to us.
Forget for a moment the miracle of the Angel Gabriel coming to tell this 12- or 13-year old girl that she will conceive a child through the Holy Spirit.
That’s hard enough.
But the fact that a girl this young has the devotion, faith and courage to be so obedient to God.
I was thinking about all this.
You see, any older than this age, and we get stuck in our heads.
I would argue that the most faithful people on this earth — today and back 2000 years ago — are the children.
Oh, times have changed so greatly, and we wouldn’t possibly imagine sending our 12- or 13-year-old daughters to the altar.
But that was the reality in Jesus’s day.
In fact, the marriage, which was arranged, began with an engagement of sorts:
The girl was betrothed to the boy or man, and that period lasted up to a year, but in that time, the couple — who lived apart for that year — were actually called husband and wife.
They were technically married, although they were kept apart for that year, and thus, couldn’t consecrate it.
Then there would be a ceremony a year later, and then they could go and live together.
We’re not there yet with Mary and Joseph. We’re still in that waiting period.
All the wedding banquet planning…
The waiting with great anticipation…
And on one of those nights, an angel visits Mary and tells her she will conceive a child through God’s Spirit, and that child will grow to do nothing short of saving the world.
At 12 or 13, you might just believe it.
But at 17 or 18, less likely…
And so, we pick up today with these nine wonderfully poetic and deeply touching verses that we call the Magnificat.
Magnificat anima mea Dominum, from the Latin, which means “My soul magnifies the Lord” — the very first line Mary speaks in the following verses recorded by Luke’s Gospel, which we read today.
In the Magnificat, Mary tells the entire story of the Old Testament.
It’s the story of God’s relationship with God’s people.
It’s the story of the promise given to God’s people.
It’s the story of salvation.
It’s the story of justice.
It’s the story of peace.
It is the story of the Messiah, of Jesus Christ, the coming Savior.
It is the story of the birth of endless possibilities that a child brings into the world.
What kind of possibilities, you ask?
It’s a good question.
And I suppose an easy answer would be determined by our faith, and how our faith shapes our response.
But let’s hold onto that thought for a moment.
God is able
In 1997, a young man had just come out of anesthesia, recovering from a very invasive and intense surgery because of a form of cancer he had.
When he came to, the surgeon said the operation was a success, but the chance of ever being able to conceive a child was not good at all.
The nerves that the surgeon had to navigate through were, in his words, “More delicate than angel-hair pasta.”
There was just no guarantee.
And for the next 10 years, the young man and his wife forgot all about having children, and instead, worked hard, bought a great house in a gated community near the beach, drove nice cars and enjoyed themselves.
And one day, they found themselves at a wedding reception, seated across a table from a couple they didn’t know, and who were about their own ages, but ended up getting along and talking much with this couple.
The question came up, as it so often does:
“Do you have any kids?”
The couple who couldn’t said no.
And the wife of the new couple warned them, sadly, “Don’t wait.”
She didn’t know that the man couldn't have children.
How would she know that it wasn’t a possibility?
I suppose this is how Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, and her husband Zechariah, felt.
Older in age, and not being able to conceive either, it was Zechariah who was visited by an angel of the Lord who said his wife would bear a child.
But we know anything is possible for God, and nine months later, John the Baptist was born.
Maybe if Zechariah and Elizabeth were younger, like Mary… Maybe they would have believed then.
I was 40 years old when my first son, Kostyn, was born.
And many of you upon hearing this story know that the young man who went through the surgery and was told he probably wouldn’t have children was me.
Doesn’t happen for everyone.
But the point isn’t only the possibilities of what God can do through us;
it’s more the possibilities that God can do through each other.
And through this child.
Mary did you know?
You see, Mary knows this.
This is what her Magnificat is all about.
When I say that it’s the history of God’s love with God’s people since the beginning, I mean it.
Because Mary knows what it means to live a dead-end life in the poorest village from an impoverished family.
She knows what it means to not be listened to as a child and as a woman.
And now, she know what it means to not be listened to as someone who EVERYONE will think is a sinner.
In her culture, there’s no way anyone is believing that it’s not Joseph’s baby.
And if Joseph walks away — and he has every right to — then that’s much worse for Mary.
They would ask: “Who, then, is this child’s father?!”
In fact, it’s a sin often punishable by death in her world.
Yet she still believes. She’s obedient.
More than that, she rejoices!
“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (verse 47)
She knows she is blessed!
“From now on, all generations shall call me blessed!” (verse 48)
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me!” (verse 49)
Why does Mary feel so blessed knowing full well the pain that she’s about to endure?
Why does Mary feel so blessed knowing that her engagement is probably off.
Why does Mary feel so blessed knowing that her family will disown her, and she’ll be left on her own to raise a child if she’s not killed first?
Because a baby — and especially this baby — can change the world.
For the world
Mary wasn’t focusing most on wha the baby would mean to her;
it was what this baby would mean for the world.
For God’s children.
That’s why in her song, Mary pulls from Exodus 15, Judges 5 and Samuel 2 to joyously praise what is about to happen!
The miracle of my own children’s births — and, yes, I do mean miracle — says a lot about my joy in God for these gifts;
However, it wasn’t my faithfulness and obedience in which God gave me these boys;
If that was the case, everyone who ever wanted a child — including Elizabeth or Sarah and anyone then or now or tomorrow — would have one.
No, the miracle is what the child represents — not just for his or her own parents; but for the world.
Because every child — including all of us, because we’re all someone’s children too, and we’re all children of God — have tremendous potential to change the world.
Mary believes the Angel Gabriel, and she understands that this child will save her nation and her people Israel;
what she has no idea about is that a group of people 5,000 miles and 2,000 years later in this little town called Bellefonte, would build their whole lives around that promise too.
And more. That Jesus would come to save not just Israel, but every single person here in the world since his birth and up to his second coming.
Talk about the possibilities of this one child.
This little light of mine
That’s the power and possibilities one child can bring.
Each of our children is a Light of Christ, because we’re all offered the Light of Christ.
John 14.12: “(Jesus said) …the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these…”
Every child that is born into this world, has the opportunity to be the Light of the World and to do even greater things than Jesus has done.
We can look around here in this church, and we can see a few of those children here today.
But you know what?
I look around and I see every single person who is here today as one of these children too.
All of you. And me!
Filled with the Light of God’s possibilities.
Make no mistake, Mary knew full well that Jesus would be the Messiah.
But you and I carry the Messiah within us too.
It’s been this way for generations, ever since Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to us and ascended to the throne at the right hand of the Father.
And it will be like that with every single generation, every child born—
whether they are born into the comforts of a first-class American life, or whether they are born in barren and impoverished subSaharan deserts of Africa;
whether they are born with a wonderful intellect or great physical abilities, or if they’re handicapped mentally or physically;
Whether they Christian boys and girls, or whether they are growing up in a country that doesn’t know, or is hostile to, Jesus Christ;
Whether they are growing up in same-sex marriages or broken households
Whether they are born addicted to crack cocaine
Whether they are born into a world of hate
Whether they are born of different colors, ethnicities or beliefs…
Each child represents a tremendous, if not infinite, amount of possibilities not just for their own selves, and not just for their families or friends, but each one of us.
And because of the birth of Jesus Christ, we’re all given these endless and eternal possibilities.
Advent into Christmas
See, today is the fourth Sunday in Advent.
It’s the last moments before the birth of this very special baby named Jesus.
Some of you, and hopefully more of you, will come back this evening to once again experience this profound Communion with God, to light a candle to be reminded of the One True Light that glows for each of us, and to sing praises to God for the coming of our Lord.
But if you think that the possibilities ended with the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago, in that little stable in Bethlehem, you’re only getting half of the possibilities.
Because here’s the gift:
We wait through Advent — this period of darkness to light that we’ve talked so much about —
we wait for the birth of the child, yes.
And we remember.
But our wait is not over with.
Jesus came to bring us Light, and Light we shall have.
Jesus came to bring justice and peace and love and good will to every one.
We will have that.
But we have only a part of it.
Because we still wait for the rest of it.
And that’s Jesus’s Second Coming.
And we should be singing this Magnificat anima mea Dominum — My soul magnifies the Lord— until the Kingdom Comes.
Let it for today be on earth as it is in heaven, but until then, we glorify God, we worship Jesus and we carry the Light of the Holy Spirit.
Do you see the possibilities that still exist because of this child?
No more darkness, no more fear.
No more drugs, or violence.
No more hatred and disrespect.
No more pain, no more loss.
No more chains.
Carry the light of the child of all possibilities.
Carry that deep within you.
The child is coming to save us all.
The child, whose possibilities are endless.
Let us pray with the words of Brian Wren:
God, how can a baby change the world even before it’s born?
The proud seem quite secure,
the seats of power look unshaken.
The hungry are unfed,
and the rich take plenty away.
So how can a baby change the world?
And yet, when it stirs in the womb,
it changes somebody’s world,
and when a child is born,
our lives are changed forever.
Who knows, at birth, what a child will become?
Did Mary sing her song when her son left home,
when he sat on a hillside, hung on a cross,
and shattered a tomb?
Then how can a baby not change the world?
Who knows what a child will become?
For when, in a home or a nation,
new life surges, strong as the incoming tide,
it changes the shape of the shoreline
so that even the castles of power
are like sand.