Scripture: Luke 1:46-55; Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
This Sunday is the final sermon from our Advent sermon series, A Light in the Darkness, and we are talking about the theme of love. The scripture reading from Luke is better known as the "Magnificat", which is a hymn of praise that Mary sings to God for having the opportunity to give birth to the Messiah. She sings this hymn in the presence of her cousin, Elizabeth. Luke tells us that Mary visits her cousin because the angel Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy. But if we read between the lines, we can surmise that there is something much more sinister at play.
According to Jewish law, Mary’s pregnancy out of wedlock would require her fiancé, Joseph, to have her executed. No matter how beautiful the story of Jesus’ birth might seem during Christmas pageants, the reality of Mary’s situation is quite dire. Even if Joseph believed Mary’s pregnancy was a miracle and not the result of being unfaithful, she would have had a tough time convincing her family and community of that truth. There would have been pressure on Mary’s family to have her put to death for being unchaste.
The text tells us that rather than remain in harm’s way, Mary travels into the hill country to live with her relative, Elizabeth, until she comes to term. Mary seeks refuge in the only place where she will be welcomed and accepted with open arms; the only place where she will not be judged for her pregnancy; the only place where she will be loved unconditionally. It is in this context that Mary speaks the words of the Magnificat. Luke is insinuating that if Mary had not traveled to live with Elizabeth, Mary’s proclamation could not have happened.
Mary’s hymn came as the result of being with someone who loved and cared for her in very dark circumstances. The message Luke is trying to send is crystal clear: when you add love into the equation, then even the most horrific of circumstances can become positive. This Sunday we are going to explore how Jesus brings love to our lives. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday and on Monday for Christmas Eve as we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Have a great weekend!