Readings: Isaiah 9:1-6; Psalm 112:1-8; Luke 1:26-38
Today’s memorial might focus on Mary’s place in the cosmos — and by extension the cosmic identity and destiny of all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve — but the readings chosen to help us probe that identity and destiny are relentlessly focused on God, all about who God is and what God wants and how God brings all that about.
You could preach for days on either of our readings but — don’t worry — I don’t think you can get a better summary than a few lines from our psalm.
‘What is he like, our God?!’ asks the psalmist. I don’t think it’s so much a question as a burst of wonder. ‘So you want to know about God?’ he says. ‘There are only two things you need to know!’
Number One: God has rather a thing for this world and us its inhabitants. God is not content with thrones and celestial palaces and whatever your imagination can concoct about ‘up there’ — God likes it down here — with us, among us, and — amazingly — for us. Which brings me to …
Number Two: The single activity of God among us, the one thing God does forever and always, is ‘lift up’ — God lifts up the lowly, God dusts off the dirty, God honours the poor like princes. That’s all God does all day.
Hm… So what should our one activity be? It seems to follow — that our one concern should be to let that be done to us and, of course, to let that be done to all around us. You see? Our one responsibility is to let ourselves be lifted up — no room for false pride or false humility — and to help, and not hinder, that same work of God in everyone else. That work is going on here today. God is right here, where God loves to be, and God is looking to lift us up — to lift us up from whatever dung heap we are mired in. It’s happening now — maybe in the person sitting next to you, maybe in you yourself. All you have to do is not get in its way. Relax into it. Feel it. Isn’t it easy? … Well, maybe…
You’d never stand in the way of what God is doing in your next-door neighbour here — you’d love to see it, you’d smile and marvel — but we do all the time — if that person is ourselves — we hinder and resist. WE don’t want to let ourselves be lifted up. And the end result isn’t just that we deny ourselves a little uplift. The end result is that the work of God in this world is interrupted just a little — and, little by little, a lot. I mean, why is there war and injustice — the yoke weighing on us, the bar across our shoulders? Why? Only because so many of us, each of us, refuse to let God lift us up, lift up our lowliness, deal with us gently, give us what we have not earned.
We worry about the world, we quake in horror at another war, another atrocity, another tragic evil near or far — but all that — all the footgear of battle, every cloak rolled in blood — all of it could be burnt up to oblivion if only — if only we let God do what God so wants to do – lift us up.
What does it take to be King of the World? Queen of Heaven? Only this: to let ourselves be lifted up.