Yr B ~ Advent 3 ~ Luke 1:46-55 (Mary’s Magnificat)
I’m going to start today by talking about something that might at first seem disconnected from Advent and Christmas and Mary. There are numerous theological concepts floating around the church that give me pause, and one of them is the idea of the second coming. Stay with me here!
Advent is absolutely a season of waiting – but we’re not waiting for God to finally act and “send” Jesus back to us from some far off place. All that second coming language betrays a remarkable blind spot in theology. Second coming language makes it sound like Jesus isn’t already here – that his light is somehow absent from the world. I guess it’s built on the texts that speak of Jesus “ascending to heaven” after his resurrection, and the texts in the book of Revelation that describe his blockbuster return. That would give the impression that Jesus wasn’t here anymore.
But that also means that we’d be saying that major aspects of Jesus’ teachings were incorrect. Jesus says all sorts of things like John 14:20, “I am in you and you are in me,” and things like Matthew 28:20, “And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
So which is it? Is Jesus here or not? Because if he never left then a second coming makes no sense!
Why am I pressing this odd theological point?
Because I want us to shift our focus from passively pining away waiting for God to make the world all better, and for us to realize that what we’re waiting for and searching for is already here – waiting for us to awaken to it, embrace it, and enact it.
And that’s why Mary’s song of faithfulness, known as the Magnificat, is so incredibly important for us to understand – not so much for the exact content of the words that she sings, but for the circumstances of her life and her faith journey that put that song in her heart.
This is another key reason why churches work so hard to focus on Advent themes rather than Christmas ones at this time of year. It’s because Mary’s song is light years away from the usual stuff we get at Christmas.
But then again, especially from the lens of people of faith, Christmas is a weird holiday. Well, at least the way we celebrate it is weird. The major focus of it all is about gifts. The usual reason we trot out for that is that it’s because God gave the world Jesus, and the wise men gave the holy family gifts, so we are somehow participating in that gratitude and worship by giving and receiving gifts.
That’s a lovely sentiment. And it’s nice to be nice to people and celebrate your relationships by giving and receiving nice things.
But let’s not pretend that this is somehow a reflection about what’s really going on in the stories surrounding Jesus’ birth.
We should probably create a separate holiday called “Honour your friends and family day” – or as some have suggested just call it “Giftmas” and show our love through gifts and things that way.
That would be fine by me! Because then we wouldn’t mix up that stuff with the really big stuff that’s happening at Christmas in the bible.
We focus in on the Nativity story every year, but really, if you want to get down to the “so what?” of Christmas then Mary’s Magnificat story tells it all.
If Mary was a cartoon character she’d be picking up her blanket, walking to centre stage of the school auditorium, having the lights go out and a single spotlight shine on her and she’d be saying, “I’ll tell you what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown!”
What’s Christmas about? read on