Will Make A Way
a sermon based on Luke 1:39-55
by Rev. Thomas Hall
Ever hear Mary sing? This is her Sunday to step
up to the microphone and sing her song of Christmas. Not sure how the melody goes, but we
do have the lyrics:
My soul gives glory to my God.
My heart pours out its praise.
God lifted um, my lowliness
in many marvelous ways.
Like Mary, we like to sing especially now at this time of year. Christmas is the season
for singing. How many times have you caught yourself humming Christmas tunes along with
the radio? This week is special from most weeks because even the CE crowd-Christmas/Easter
crowd-warms up to our festive hymn selections.
Recently I had a reunion with a musician and songwriter that I traveled with in the
70s. He had flown in from Alabama to entertain 6,000 employees at a corporation in
Philadelphia for their annual Christmas party. After chatting a few minutes during a
rehearsal break, my spouse and I sat in to listen to his band. What energy! What volume
you have, said my forty-something ears. We were in this cavernous concrete hall and the
guitar licks ricocheted off the four walls and ceiling before hammering my eardrum. Right
above my head were four huge speakers with a microphone stuck right up to them. So when
they belted out those familiar Christmas tunes-they were indelibly imprinted in my inner
ear. So I left not only singing, but ringing.
Singing is what Christmas is all about in our gospel lesson. Our Christmas passage is
written by Luke the singing doctor. In his story of the birth of Jesus, Luke turns the
gospel into a Christmas pageant. Hes sitting out there in the directors chair
giving cues to the Christmas cast, and they come out one by one to debut their song.
Zechariah hears that he going to be a daddy and so he begins to sing. Little Mary too
suddenly cuts loose with a tune. The angels sing in four part harmony, Elizabeth sings,
aged Simeon sings; just about everybody sings in Lukes Christmas story.
But have you ever wondered why Mary might be singing? Why she would break into song?
When you think about it, what does she really have to sing about? Shes a fourteen
year old kid. Old enough to baby sit, maybe. But much too young for what life throws at
her. She is fourteen and pregnant with no biological partner to share responsibility. What
has this Cinderella to sing about? Someone hush her up. Getting pregnant was not in her
agenda; she hadnt planned to be a kid having a kid. Abortion was out of the question
in the Jewish community. Naturally, the pregnancy had placed a severe strain on her
The angel had told her to fear not, but there was plenty to fear all right. Downright
dangerous things to be so scared, you cry out in the night, you wake up in a cold sweat.
Like bringing shame and disgrace upon the family name. Like being cut out of the family
story-every picture torn out of the family album. Like having people whisper about her.
Mary had even heard of public stonings for these kinds of things. Fear not. Fraid
not. There was plenty to fear.
Ever hear Mary sing? Its no lullaby. Shes not singing herself to sleep in
the darkness of her room-this unbearably dark secret inside her growing more noticeable
each day. No, thats not the Mary that Luke shows us. Instead we see a sixteen year
old, a Joan of Arc humming a battle cry:
God has shown strength with his arm,
He has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts,
He has put down the mighty from their thrones;
And the rich he has sent empty away.
Hers is no sweet Christmas carol. Its a song from the other side of the tracks.
From the projects. A kid who lives near the abandoned warehouses in Kensington, a youth
who walks every day past the white chalk outline of her friend on the pavement.
Marys song is about someone from the bottom suddenly being raised up. The only women
who sing this kind of song live in Haiti, Somalia, Sarajevo, and Chester.
I grew up in the sixties-I still remember the tunes and energy of my groups-Blood,
Sweat, and Tears, The Moody Blues, Chicago, Peter, Paul, and Mary. We sang songs of
revolution-our world was spinning out of control. We were being sent over to shoot people
in a war we never asked for, we read hypocrisy in our parents. Janis ODd and Jimmie
started a social revolution with his guitar. But from within all of the cacophony, I first
heard Mary sing. At first it was song by only a few of us on the fringe, but then it grew
loud and started a counter revolution. The words of these songs boldly echoed the Sweet,
Sweet, Song of Salvation. Same energy and volume, but the words were different. Thousands
of us began to sing this new kind of subversive song. Turned our anger into service, our
hate into love, our make-love-not-war into compassionate action. Thousands of my angry
young friends were getting baptized in the West Coast. Historians now refer to it as the
Jesus Movement. Its really the song of Mary.
I remember marching in one African country that had a dictatorship that made laws that
restricted black persons from eating in the same restaurants or living in the same areas
with white people, using the same rest rooms, and from going to the same churches with
white people. Yet there we were, thousands of us red, yellow, black and white, marching as
young militants and singing every step of the way.
Ever heard Mary sing? Maybe youve forgotten the melody. Maybe youve lost
your voice. Maybe you wonder what difference it makes whether you sing or not. A
missionary who works with starving children once remarked that when a child is starving,
when a child is utterly emaciated and near death, that child no longer cries. Tears dry up
and the child is silent. The hunger is so deep it has moved beyond pain, beyond feeling,
to utter, empty silence. If you are hurt often enough, deep enough, disappointed,
defeated, pushed down enough, before long you become withdrawn, quiet, silent.
First century Judea, in the December darkness had little to sing about. They sat silent
in their hovels and cracks for fear of Roman soldiers. Nothing holy and bright about these
silent nights. Yet there, in the dark silence was this unmistakably pure and clear
feminine voice that cut through the silence.
God casts the might from their thrones, Promotes the insecure,
Leaves hungry spirits satisfied,
The rich seem suddenly poor.
There is strength in singing your faith in the face of tough times and impossible
situations. What happens to people when death takes one of theirs? We dont know what
to say, how to console, but in the funeral services I encourage the family to confront
their loss by singing. The church coaxes them to sing even when they dont feel like
it. Such singing is pure outright defiance, stunning faith, clench-fisted revolution in
the face of deaths presence. Death hates music. So do the tyrants.
A friend of mine, Craig, was involved in a car accident several years ago. One of his
five children was tossed like a rag doll out of the van. There in his arms the little
guy-their youngest died. When my musical friend-the one I mentioned earlier-heard the
tragic news of Craigs loss of his son, he sat down and penned the final words to a
song. "God Will Make a Way When There is No Way."
God will make a way when there seems to be no way;
He works in ways we cannot see,
He will make a way for me;
He will be my guide hold me closely to his side,
With love and strength for each new day,
God will make a way, god will make a way,
God will make a way for me.
My friend heard Mary sing that day. A song of reversal. A defiant song of trust. A song
breaking through the silent night, unholy night.
Dark days are just ahead for Mary. Her joy as a young mother will be eclipsed by severe
pain. Just down the road in another Palestinian city, other mothers will weep for their
slaughtered babies, as others will weep for Marys Son. But for now, her faith
enables Mary to sing out in the silent night.
Yours and mine-our lives are not Christmas fuzzies. The days grow short, the nights are
long. But for now, our faith enables us to sing. We sing because we believe. We sing even
when doubts outweigh confidence. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God
my Savior. Amen.