LUKE 1:39-56 Advent 3 2017. A Reflection.
(First told in the sermon slot during worship at Luther King House Theological College on December 12th 2017)
Christmas can get out of hand can’t it? Especially when the relatives turn up …
Well here’s a Christmas story about a relative coming to visit and things getting out of hand.
Oops sorry – that’s not very LC is it?
Let me start again.
Here’s an advent story about a relative coming to visit.
Let me warn you, it’s an odd story. You know, like one of those modern stories where you are never entirely surely what’s going on. If you listen carefully, underneath the surface you can hear all kinds of chaos bubbling away. Frankly, it’s a little disturbing, the kind of story that leaves your wondering, “Where will it all end?”
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s start at the beginning.
It all starts rather, well, rather recklessly.
Mary, pregnant Mary, runs for the hills. No one is entirely sure why she was in such a hurry. Perhaps she was embarrassed? Or maybe she was Excited? Either way she seems to have forgotten that advent is about patient waiting. Doesn't bode well does it?
In fact, the more the story unfolds the more it begins to look as though this ‘ere pregnancy malarkey is affecting Mary's memory rather badly. Not only has she forgotten the meaning of advent but she’s also forgotten her manners.
Instead of greeting the man of the house, you know, behaving properly, she heads straight for the old woman. No don’t complain, don't accuse me of being sexist, it is his house. Look, it says it. Right there in Holy Scripture. “… she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. See!
I don't know about you but quite frankly I don’t know what to make of it. Maybe she’s being rude, or perhaps just a bit cheeky - she is a teenager after all. Mind you, there could another, more sinister possibility. Some would say, God forbid, that she’s being deliberately subversive. I do hope not. After all, where will it all end?
Actually, the more you read the story, the more you find yourself wondering if there hasn’t been something of an outbreak of recklessness in Judah. Even the Holy Spirit has been affected.
I mean look. He too is ignoring the proper channels, bypassing the priest, the man, and pressing Elizabeth’s prophecy button instead! I can think of some who might argue that God has silenced old Zech on purpose, you know, just to let the women get a word in edgeways.
Then the next thing you know, the babies are getting in on the act. Unborn babies! First there's Holy Spirit inspired prophecy that sees deep enough to recognise the Lord in a foetus and then we get charismatic dancing in utero. The world’s going mad! Where will it all end?
Actually, there might be another way of looking at this. I said it was the Holy Spirit who was behind these goings on, but you know what, on reflection, if you look carefully at what Elizabeth says, you’ve got to wonder if this really is the Holy Spirit at work after all.
I mean, bless her, Elizabth seems to have got a bit mixed up. On the one hand she thinks that Mary’s unborn child is her Lord, “Why has the mother of my Lord come to me?” and in the next breath she’s speaking as if the Lord is the one who sent the Angel with the message about the baby, “… blessed is she who believed … what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
See what I mean? Poor old dear. Probably a bit hormonal. Getting her theology all confused like that.
Next up, the pregnant teenager is at it. And boy! (sorry, child!) does she go for it.
Talk about delusional! Just because crazy aunty Liz has called her blessed she now seems to think that all generations will call her blessed! I mean to say! All generations? Who does she think she is? After all Joseph’s no Abraham and she’s no Sarah.
But there’s more … not only has she got delusions of grandeur, she’s starting to sound like one of those there dangerous radicals. Someone somewhere is not complying with the prevent strategy. And once you start playing fast and loose with government directives, well, who knows where it will all end?
I mean, have you heard the stuff she’s coming out with? Bad theology and subversive politics that's what!
“Bad theology?” I hear you ask. Well just take a look. She sounds like one of those soppy evangelicals. Me, me, me, my, my, my – my God, my Saviour, my blessing. This is the worst kind of Yahweh is my boyfriend nonsense. I ask you! What she needs is a year or two at theological college.
And then on top of all this extreme, hyper-spiritual, over-individualised, doe-eyed nonsense, she starts laying down extremist politics: scattering the proud indeed! Or in other words scaring people off!
Not only that but she’s advocating the overthrow of legitimate governments; wasting money on scroungers – oops sorry – PC alert – “the lowly”; taxing the rich so they no longer have two bank accounts to rub together and then giving it all to the so called hungry. Prophetic correctness gone mad! Where will it all end?
So, there you have it a strange chaotic tale in an obscure backwater. A pregnant teenager. A doddering old woman. A dancing foetus. Confused theology. Superspiritual twaddle. Loony left politics. And not a man in sight anywhere to keep order. I ask you: Where will it all end?
Of course, we like to think that we know where it will all end: a cross, a grave, a resurrection, a Holy Spirit deluge, a new people, a coming again and a new heaven and earth.
I do like a happy ending.
Only this story isn’t about eagerly anticipated endings it’s about unexpected beginnings. Odd beginnings with divine life making an appearance among unfavoured people in strange places, unnamed places, easily overlooked places, quiet places, hidden places, places as deep and dark and quiet and hidden as a hymen-sealed womb.