Song of a Revolution - Reflections 12-14-2021

Texts for Sunday December 19, 2021
4th Sunday of Advent

Micah 5:2-5a
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-55

When it was time to head off to college, I applied and was accepted at the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois. Mid-summer I learned that through some bureaucratic mishap, it turned out that I wasn’t in the School of Social Work. I was invited to spend my freshman year in say, Sociology, and then move to Social Work my sophomore year. “OK”, I said, “Sounds fine”. But since I was late to enrolling in classes for Sociology, the only sociology class that had room for me was one for upperclassmen, The Sociology of Revolution. “OK”, I said, “Sounds fine”. In class, I was assigned the topic for my final paper: compare and contrast the Albanian Revolution with the Haitian Revolution. “OK”, I said, “Sounds fine”. …And proceeded to a world map to find them on it. (
This is in the olden days of reference books, card catalogs, and notes on index cards. No Google.) I hope by this point you are chuckling because I was just a "sweet young thing" from a farm in northern Illinois and fairly clueless. I’d witnessed the riots of civil rights movement, Vietnam war protests, and women’s liberation movement on the news. Oh, I did participate in the first Earth Day. And I participated in a sit-in at my high school in protest of the …. dress code.

Little did I know that I would graduate with a degree in Sociology, go on to get a Master of Theological Studies, and end up a Deacon who serves in an organization that sings and celebrates one of the greatest revolutionary songs of all time: the Magnificat.

The setting and characters that Luke describe for this song are rather revolutionary on their own. Elizabeth, an older married woman who has not ever borne a child – and remember “barrenness” is seem as a shameful sign of God’s displeasure – is surprisingly and miraculously pregnant. Coming to visit Elizabeth is a young teenaged relative named Mary who is newly engaged and who is also very surprisingly and miraculously pregnant – and remember for sex outside of marriage, women could be stoned. These two wonderful outcasts from society greet each other in joy… as do the children in their wombs. There was no fear, no shame but joy and a shared faith that God is doing something radically different here on behalf of the world.

Elizabeth blesses Mary. In response to Elizabeth’s blessing and filled with God’s Spirit, Mary sings a glorious vision of God’s revolutionary counterculture. God is turning the world upside down through the birth of her child. The song describes a radical reversal of fortunes: the hungry will be filled, the lowly lifted up even as the rich will be sent away empty, and the mighty brought down. Divisions fall. God’s promise of mercy is for all.

Notice the verbs - the song praises God’s actions in past tense. The works of God are so certain that Mary proclaims them as accomplished.

The recent years have been tough on the soul: fear, illness, death, division, violence, religious/ethnic intimidation, prejudice, fanaticism, narrowness, bigotry, indifference, intolerance, hate, and…. well, you get the picture. The image of these women meeting in joy and the praise of this song of promise reminds us that no matter how it looks, God is at work. Fear not. Look around. God is present within the most unlikely settings and people. It’s a done deal. Accomplished. God comes in human flesh right into our midst and nothing is ever the same. God’s mercy endures forever.

Questions for thought:
How close do you come to “leaping for joy” when you recognize God’s presence in your life?

Does your soul also magnify the Lord? How so?

In what ways do you share a place among the lowly? Because of this, what message does the Gospel hold for you?

In what ways do you share a place among the rich and the powerful? Because of this, what message does the Gospel hold for you?

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245