Tuesday, December 09, 2008

O Come.

This week is traditionally the time of Advent when we consider Joy.

I've practically been lost in The Magnificat, the song of praise Mary, the expecting mother of Jesus. This passage of Scripture found in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke moves me every time I read it (which frankly is not often enough).

Luke 1:45 are the words of her older cousing Elizabeth who is also, hope against hope, for she was barren, and miracle of miracles, for she was getting up there in years, was finally pregnant. Mary came to visit her and Elizabeth, upon Mary's arrival, felt her own child leap in her womb. She longed for a child and her prayers were answered.

And Elizabeth knew. She knew about Mary because the Holy Spirit live in her. Elizabeth, who is described as a woman who lived blameless, knew. And she said, "Mary, you are blessed ~ or maybe, will be blessed ~ because you believed that the words of the LORD would be fulfilled".

And in response, Mary's words, a beautiful hymn of praise to God found in Luke 1...

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed
for the Mighty One has done great things for me.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham
and to his descendants forever.

There are so many reasons why Mary's words mean so much to me, reasons that have formed over the years. First, Mary praises so innocently and simply, basking in the promises of her Lord. I don't know if she's endured any hard thing before this major turn of events ~ getting pregnant out of wedlock a big deal here. She is very young by our standards.

Her words are innocent and simple but are fully loaded with understanding. She's not blind to what is happening to her, although I can't imagine that she understands it all. She longs for things to be made right in the world, just like everyone else does, and sees herself, finally, as a possible conduit for bringing justice to the world. That is something to rejoice! To know you lived blessed because God has asked for your help to bring about his plan of deliverance... that blessing is not something we all covet, as I imagine it for her, and I know it for me, to be not entirely free of struggle. But she is living in hope, and joyful that this day is come. I don't believe that she could know all that would happen to her, to her Son, but she was trusting here, that God would do His thing, that God would keep His promises. So she praised!

Not only are her words simple and innocent, the are prophetic. A woman prophet... gasp! For all those who think that God does not and will not use women in speaking His Words to His people, they better consider how Mary's praise is prophecy. She is telling all of us what Jesus, even as he is still a tiny babe nesting in her womb, was about to do. Again, did she completely understand it all? Probably not. I'm not sure any prophet understands every word he or she is asked to bring, but she spoke them with boldness and joy. She is a prophet, and she speaks about justice more than anything. And I firmly believe that only through justice, and knowing we are working to bring God's Kingdom to this world, and therefore, a more just world to this earth, only through justice can we truly find JOY.

And Mary's audience is not lost on me either. She is singing to her barren cousin and confidant. Yeah, Elizabeth may be "with child" but she is barren. Elizabeth I am certain knows longing and it is this exact longing, that of a child to hold and to love, to nurture and to cherish, that makes me feel this all so very much. There is nothing just about barrenness, about who gets to be a parent and who doesn't, but GOD IS JUST. And that has taught me, even though I rarely am able to express this yet, that joy comes in the realizing that God's justice does and will bring what we need in our lives, but more importantly, through us He will bring what the world ~ the bigger picture, the stuff bigger than my own barrenness ~ needs. He has chosen us, just like He chose Mary, to bring His love and life to the world. Therein lies the joy.

There is joy even in the longing. Mary says it in her words. She's not saying "this has happened" but "look at what God has put into motion! The possibilities are His and endless because He keeps His Promises and He promised to deliver us from the injustice in the world."

And that makes me cry even louder as I long for His birth to happen in my life yet again... O COME! And Let Us Rejoice!

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel...Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyrannyF
rom depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel... Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel...Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel...Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel...Shall come to thee, O Israel.
~ Latin hymn, 12th century

O Come!

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