Sunday, December 20, 2015

"Sometimes You Just Gotta Sing" (Luke 1:39-45 [46-55])

When Mary heard Elizabeth's pronouncement, she was moved to song . . . she began to sing.  Elizabeth had declared that Mary was the chosen one to carry the child of God.  Declared to be blessed.  Overwhelmed with the immensity of the knowledge and affirmation of Elizabeth's words, Mary could do nothing but sing.  In my imagination I picture as one of those old musicals in which there is little conversation and lots of singing . . . people always breaking out in song.  Mary breaks out in song . . . she can't help it.  Sometimes there is no holding back . . . sometimes you just gotta break out in song.

Author Sharon Shinn in her book, Archangel, writes about a conversation between two of the characters.  One is asking the other about how he knows that there is a god--any God.  In response the character answers: “Are you asking me if there is a god?' he said, still in that soft voice. 'All I can say is, I believe there is. I feel him when I sing. He has responded to my prayers countless times. He guides my actions and he dwells in my heart. I know he is there.”  It is in singing that he is in the presence of God . . . it is in singing that he feels God . . . and, the song comes from the heart.

Mary acknowledges this deep seated connection to the Lord . . . to God's presence: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . ."  From her heart she sings of her love and devotion to God . . . for remembering her . . . for choosing her . . .for believing in her.  So overwhelmed she can do nothing but sing.  This is no ordinary song . . . not some top forty pop song or Karaoke ditty . . . no, this is something more intimate, more personal . . .almost a prayer.  Hers is a song of adoration . . . a form of worship . . . a prayer.  Writer Gangai Victor writes: “It’s easy to sing the song, but to pray the lyrics from deep within… that’s worship!”

We should all be familiar of the story of Mary . . . chosen by God to carry God's child . . . to be the mother of God's son.  Familiar with the chaos that this news created in her life and the life of her betroth . . . the rumors that flew . . . the gawking . . . the finger pointing . . . all the things that went against her religion and faith.  To feel ostracized.  How this surprise pregnancy nearly ruined her relationship with Joseph before it even had a chance.  It is not difficult to imagine that all of this had to have some sort of effect upon Mary and how she viewed herself--whether it was God or not, Mary's self-esteem had to be pretty low.

Thus it is no surprise that she is overwhelmed when Elizabeth confirms and affirms how special this pregnancy is . . . how blessed Mary is for having been chosen.  In Elizabeth's reaction and words Mary encounters an affirmation that not only is she loved, but God has chosen her . . . that God wants her . . .desires her.  No matter what happens, she realizes that God loves her and will always love her.  So overwhelmed, she can only sing--she responds with worship, she sings.

Again, in my mind's eye, I envision Mary breaking out in song a lot like Julie Andrews does in the Sound of Music . . . when she is up the Alps, surrounded by all those beautiful mountains, and she begins to belt out, "The hills are alive with the sound of music!"  Mary is that moved by the acceptance she feels from God in that moment of revelation in Elizabeth's presence.  She's gotta sing.

Hearing this story made me wonder about how we respond to God's acceptance and love for each of us . . . do we break out in song?  Are we spontaneous in letting out our feelings for God?

I think that we as a congregation . . . as the faithful gathered . . . we have this singing thing down.  And, I am not the only one who believes this.  Our regional minister, Ruth Fletcher, has often said to me that she enjoys worshipping at Joliet Christian Church because she always feels as if she has worshipped when she leaves.  Throughout the region . . . and, even in our own community . . . we are known for our singing.  Our singing comes from our hearts . . . our singing is our prayer . . . our singing is our worship.  We do it with deep devotion, love, and enthusiasm.  When we gather with the faithful we have no problem breaking out in song; but, are we apt to do the same when we are out in the world doing our jobs or living our lives on a daily basis?

There is an underlying shading that comes with the season of Advent . . . one that comes out of a reality check of the world around us.  These are tough times that we are living in . . . violent times . . . unjust times . . . times that long for peace.  And, these times are a reflection of the people who live in them.  Advent calls us to look at our lives and to begin to make the preparations to receive the gift of grace that come in Jesus and the life he reveals to us.  Living in such a time as these does not do much for one' shelf-esteem . . . doesn't make us feel very desirable.  And, yet, the gift is going to be ours whether we think we deserve it or not.  It is going to be ours because God loves us . . . desires us . . . and, ultimately has chosen us.  Each and every year, during the season of Advent, we are reminded of this . . . God loves us . . . plain and simple, God loves us.

And, because God loves us, we should respond accordingly.  How did Mary put it?  “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . ."  Then she broke in song because the joy she felt could be expressed no other way.  As a people who believe in the love and grace of God shown through Jesus, shouldn't we acknowledge our deep and overwhelming love for God . . . not just in our gathering as the faithful on Sunday mornings or in special services, but in each and every moment our love for God moves us beyond mere words? 

In this season of Advent we are reminded once again that we have been chosen to receive the affirmation of love . . . to receive the grace . . . to be acknowledged as the children of God.  A gift that is given to us each and every day.  In this season of Advent we are reminded that we always have the gift of starting over when it comes to our love for God and for one another.  When one considers the immensity of this gift of grace, one cannot helped but to be overwhelmed by the sense of being loved . . . it is more than words can express.  It makes you want to pray . . . to worship . . . to sing.  You just gotta sing.  Amen.

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