Monday, December 17, 2012

Mary Did You Know? A sermon in the shadow of Sandy Hook

Mary Did You Know?
God is a God of being in the messiness. Into the upside down world of an unwed teenage mother came the Christ-child. Into a people oppressed came the King of kings. And into our very midst – the messiness of national tragedy and broken and breaking lives, comes the living God. This is the Prince of Peace, who loves us despite our reliance upon guns and swords and bombs. This is the Wonderful Counselor, who hears the cries of our cracking hearts. This is the Might God and Everlasting Father, who gathers his children and holds them in their grief. 

I wonder if Mary could have imagined all of that when she was visited by the angel Gabriel. I wonder if she could have dreamed of what it would mean for God to be born into this messy, hurting world. I wonder if she could have fathomed the kind of pain he would suffer – for us, for her, for everyone – but also the kind of joy he would kindle in the hearts of those who followed him.
There is a popular song on the radio about Mary. “Mary did you know” which was written for a children’s pageant in the 1980s. Listen to the lyrics:

Mary did you know that your baby boy would some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy would give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary did you know

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will walk again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am
Christmas is about remembering that the Lord of all Creation came to us, in the middle of our seizing, stinking, awful brokenness. God came near. God came here. And God is here still.

Mary did you know that in your womb grows a baby who brings light to the World in the most amazing way?


She couldn’t have, of course. She could never have guessed the beautiful things that Christ did – healed the sick, fed the hungry, freed the captive. She could never have known of the ministry or the miracles when he wiggled in her belly. Nor could she have dreamed in her worst nightmare the pain of sacrifice and loss she would witness as her precious first-born son hung upon the Cross. And, she could not have imagined the hope that he brings, for Christ is the Resurrection and the life, and light of the world – a light that not even death upon a Cross can put out.

This Sunday of Advent we mark with a pink candle because it is “Joy” Sunday. We are to remember that the angels brought Glad tidings of Great Joy. They whispered do not be afraid. Fear not, for we bring news of Joy. Fear not, a Savior has come to the nations. Fear not, God is here.
The angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Fear Not, the Lord is with you.” Do not be afraid, Mary, God is near.

God is near. Even this week, when this country was faced with two shootings, the first at a shopping mall in Oregon and the second a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut, we must hold fast to the promise, “Do not fear, the Lord is with you.”

God is with us, in the tragedy and the triumph. God is with us, as we rejoice in families brought together for the holidays after months apart, and God is here as we mourn with families who will never see their precious children open the presents already wrapped under the tree. God is with us, as we face an uncertain economy. God is with us and with the people protesting in Egypt, and with the victims of violence in Syria, and with the hungry children in Africa, and with the grieving families in Connecticut and Oregon.

Do not be afraid, God is near.

Advent is a season pregnant with hope and anticipation. It is a season which looks beyond itself, beyond the here and now, toward the future  - toward the coming of Christ-child in a manger lowly, and toward the second coming of Christ the King in glory. We are not striving to generate joy for the Christmas holiday, we are striving to testify to a Joy that will be a balm to every tear[1]. To a Joy which is the light of the World. To a Joy that is embodied, unending, and enduring from generation to generation.

Mary, did you know that you need not be afraid any longer? God is with us. God is near.  Now and always. Amen.

[1] Thanks to Rachel Hackenburg, from whom this line was borrowed, (

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