This is the third week of Advent. We have been preparing ourselves and retelling among us the stories of preparation as we expect God’s presence to come among us through Jesus. We wait for the birth of the son of Mary, but also for the Christ who comes in our midst and brings God’s way to every corner of our world. I saw this description this week: “Advent is the waiting church, anxiously standing on her tiptoes to see over and around the noise and confusion of the world to catch a glimpse of the amazing thing that God is about to do in the world. Come Lord Jesus.” This came from a pastor is Texas by the name of Pastor David Hansen. Are we not standing of tiptoe peering over the hustle and the bustle looking for God? Waiting for a miracle?
This Wednesday, a group of us watched Miracle on 34th Street together. This classic from 1947 put center stage as we turned our attention to the question of what miracles are and how we see them in the world around us. If you remember the film, a single mother working at Macy’s and her precocious daughter finding themselves learning about miracles through the arrival of Kris Kringle in their lives. And even until the very end, his ways keep them guessing. Sit back and enjoy the ending of the movie as the miracles come together.
It almost seems like the impossible happens by the end of this movie. The movement of the heart for Doris and her daughter, Susan only seems to happen in movies, as it was a miracle. When we think of miracles, we imagine the feeding of the 5000, the accident that seemed fatal that someone walked away from, or incredible healings. We think of biblical miracles and miracles of biblical proportions. These are not the only kind of miracles through which God works. God is still working on each and every one of us and shows us God’s presence through more ordinary and mundane measures. We hear the story of Mary’s ordinary miracle of becoming of mother in an extraordinary way.
Our gospel lesson this morning gives voice to Mary’s amazement and rejoicing in hearing of her own miracle: a miracle that seems at first impossible, and upon further ponderance, incredible. As the Advent candles were lit, many of us noticed that pink is the color of the day. In a sea of blue and purple, the pink stands out. The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudette or Joy, Sunday, depicted by the pink candle. Mary’s joy is captured in her song, called the Magnificat. “The Magnificat teaches a simple truth: you cannot receive a gift unless you have place for it in your life. You cannot learn if you think you know if all. You cannot receive love unless you know there is a place in you that is empty and needs love to fill it.” 1 Making room where there seems to be no room is part of the physical work of pregnancy. A woman’s body, which was full and complete before the carrying of a child, makes room to carry a child and all of the needed additions to the body to support that child.
In the same way, a family that was full and complete before the arrival of a child, must make room to nurture and raise a child. Time and space, emotion and mindset all need revision before the child is born. And yet, the irony is the work cannot be completed until the child has arrived. It is across years that this dance of making room occurs. Mary not only made room for Jesus in her body as she bore him, carried him for the amount of time a pregnancy can contain, but she also made room in her mind and her heart that she was bearing a special child. Of course, all children are special and yet, this one was different. She had to make room in her soul for the incredible and unbelievable announcement from the angel Gabriel about the child who she was to carry. The author and mystic , Madeline L’Engle writes: “This is the irrational season, when love blooms bright and wild. Had Mary been filled with reason, there’d have been no room for the child.”
Perhaps there are times when we are too filled with reason to carry and retell the miracles of our lives. A full bookcase cannot receive additional books. A full schedule cannot make time for God. A full heart does not know how to prepare and receive the one who is coming. Miracles often pass us by, because we have no room to hold and ponder them. What is a miracle? Theologian, Frederick Buechner says, “A miracle is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when one plus one equals a thousand.” 2 The great scientist, Albert Einstein, who saw more than his share of miraculous discoveries suggests a practical measurement of the miraculous -“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
This morning, we prepare for the Baptism of Mason Robert, whose story certainly includes miracles – reminders of God’s very presence with us. Kelly, Mason’s mother told her story in one of our testimonies this fall. She recounted the harrowing time, just after Mason’s birth in which her life slipped into danger and fear was more prevalent than oohs and aahs. When the miracles of modern medicine were truly a gift from God, a miracle that allows her to be celebrating with us today. It was depending on the wisdom of medical professionals, the prayers of the faithful, and the grace of God that showed a miracle just four months ago. We celebrate Kelly’s miracle with alongside the celebration of Mason, this morning.
Miracles are need to be retold and retold. The prophet Isaiah begins with the words, I remember, I recount, I will retell as he testifies to God’s presence with the community in exile, who feel most unaware of God’s presence and miraculous presence. This long history of God’s faithfulness; miracles are God’s incredible redeeming work. Isaiah rehearses and retells the miracles and the works of God, because even though the people who previously lived in darkness have seen a great light, they need to hear again about how God has been faithful. This is not so different from those of us who have know God in the past and easily fall into the habit of wondering where God is now. How is God still working and moving in our lives? Is God still working and moving in my life, we wonder?
From the most unlikely source, we hear more wisdom about miracles. The children’s series, A Series of Unfortunate events features the Lemony Snicket as a narrator. In one of the books, he says this: ““Miracles are like meatballs, because nobody can exactly agree on what they are made of, where they come from, or how often they should appear. Some people say that a sunrise is a miracle, because it is somewhat mysterious and often very beautiful, but other people say it is simply a fact of life, because it happens every day and far too early in the morning. Some people say that a telephone is a miracle, because it sometimes seems wondrous that you can talk with somebody who is thousands of miles away, and other people say it is merely a manufactured device fashioned out of metal parts, electronic circuitry, and wires that are very easily cut. … So you might think that there are so many miracles in the world that you can scarcely count them, or that there are so few that they are scarcely worth mentioning, depending on whether you spend your mornings gazing at a beautiful sunset or lowering yourself into a back alley with a rope made of matching towels.” 3
Miracles come in all kinds of varieties. It is the good work of Advent to open our eyes to the ways in which God is communicating and sharing God’s ways with us. When we commit ourselves to seeing. We notice the miracles of life alongside the miracles of humanity. We notice with delight when God is moving among those in need as well as in the fullness of creation. We see God in the birth of a baby and in the surprise of a teenager asking how they can be helpful. We see God in the health of remission and the pleasantness of a grumpy neighbor. Have you known a miracle? Have you seen God moving in your very presence? Miracles need retelling. God’s people need reminding. Share the miracles of God today with someone who needs to hear of God’s nature, presence, and love,
This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
1 John Buchanan Christian Century December 2012
2 Frederick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace
3 Lemony Snicket, The Carnivorous Carnival
Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 63:7-9
I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, because of all that the Lord has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”; and he became their savior in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
Gospel Lesson: Luke 1:46-55
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”