Sunday, December 20, 2015

Weight of the World: Mary and Harry

The girl with the weight of the world in her hands, and the boy who lived.  Plenty of authors and preachers have outlined the parallels between Harry Potter and Jesus, which are fairly unavoidable.  Yet sometimes I think there is a lot more of Mary in Harry’s story, and certainly a whole lot of Moses.  He is just a boy, that Harry Potter.  With fractured glasses and pants many sizes too large.  He has no worldly power, no glory that might cause eyes might turn to him.  Hidden amongst us muggle-types, we with no knowledge of magical things, Harry has hints and inklings of his vocation.  Yet nothing in his life as he knows it has prepared him for the journey that he is called to.  The Chosen One, darling and amazing and burdened with a possibly heartbreaking fate.

Mary she is just a girl.  She is covered in shawls and scarves of legend and longing, covered in roses, in beads of prayers and in saccharine silliness to numb our discomfort.  What young person's life can possibly prepare him or her for the journey Gabriel announces?  She is just a girl.  A girl with the weight of the world in her hands.  Luke is telling us that in the birth of Jesus, we are part of a new Exodus.  The Magnificat, this song that Mary sings, it is a lyric that echoes the song of Hannah, the opening musical number in the Davidic epic.  And Hannah's song is rich with the tones and topics of the song of Miriam, a celebration of freedom, a thrilling voice ascending from the terrors that lurk behind them in Egypt,  and a pause before journeying into the unknown silent night that lays ahead.

I am having a harder and harder time believing that there isn’t a terrible magical spell running amok in the world.  In the novels, when something goes wrong in our world,  That we just cannot reasonably explain, it is actually due to the misdoings of the magical realm.  Now some data suggests that things here in our world are getting better.  I read the whole article yesterday.  The math seems accurate, the stories congruent.  Yet still, I scoff.  Because in the newsfeed I sense something beyond everyday wrong.  Every time another disaster scrolls across up my screen, every time the news seems gut wrenchingly terrible beyond reason, I wonder if there are giants on the loose, or if dark spells are being cast, and I wonder if the fictional world isnt’ such a fiction after all.

He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,     
            remembering his mercy,
 just as he promised to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.

The song that Mary sings is not about some future age.  The salvation that is dawning at Christmas is already active.  The title of Savior is evidence of a human need that is deep and broad and heartbreaking.  It names a fearful desperation  that is greater than what our own resources can bear.  In Jesus the work of God as savior is made flesh, in the birth of Christ God transforms my childish confusion, in the incarnation of God compassion dissolves my cruel imaginings.  And as we await Christmas day, Mary sings to me courageously, sings that the gift of God's peace has always been being born.

Mary was young.  Anthropologists tell us that in Biblical times for women, first marriage was in their early teens.  Maybe you have to be young at heart to dare this.  The tradition tends to gild the wholehearted young Mary in clean skin and blue scarves. But I never see her that way.  I see the girl who embraces vulnerability, who will face shame and possible peril for this gift she bares.  The Greek orthodox title for Mary is Theotokos.  God bearer.  Glorious but also weighted.  A precious son, a wiggly boy, a compassionate adult, a systematic victim,  and yes a resurrected Lord.  What will be the scale to weigh the gift she will bear?

If I were God and considering my incarnation, I might start by asking experienced mothers.  Which makes me wonder if other women were asked.  What if more mature women heard this invitation     and were frozen by disasterizing; stopped by seeing the tragedy that could lay ahead?  What if we have to possess the brave dreaminess so natural to our young friends to trust like this?  Does it take the faith of a young person to believe the half-giant who says you are a wizard?  What if we have to cast aside all mature defensiveness to sing Mary’s song? 

What kept her safe may have been that Mary seems to go unnoticed, just another veiled and shamed woman in occupied territory.  If she were of more notice to the powers that be, this scandalous occasion would have brought more scrutiny, and perhaps retribution.  She whose body is home for the great and holy Creator of the universe,  she is awe inspiring, but she demands questions. Would we say yes?      How do we care for desperate people in difficult circumstances?  What is happening in her, what is be happening in us is regime change.  Are we ready to sing a song of liberation and mercy for all people?

If we take up her song, we cannot just name the promises of God,instead we have to dare greatly and enter into them. The good news that Christ is a gift for us, he wants us to sing her song, wants us to embrace his whole life in the center of our being.  He wants for us to discover the gift of vulnerability which shines bright enough to transform the evils we cannot comprehend. 

In a closet beneath the stairs is a boy, who has been counted for nothing.  A boy who is the stranger, the unusual neighbor, who is in every way an ‘other‘ who arrives at our door.  Like us he is confused and lonely, and what matters is not his will, but his bold trust, what matters is not our power, but God's.  

The girl with the weight of the world in her hands dared to trust in the holy unbelievable.   She bears for us the God made flesh, Christ our Lord, Savior, Redeemer, friend.  She also bears us to him, presents us to someone and something who has been with us all along, inviting us to sing this song, waiting to hear us answer yes.  In Jesus the work of God as savior is made flesh, in the birth of Christ God transforms my childish confusion, in the incarnation of God compassion dissolves my cruel imaginings.  And as we await Christmas day, Mary sings to us courageously, sings that the gift of God's peace is ready to be born in us.   

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Walla Walla, Washington, USA
December 20, 2015
Advent 4C RCL

There is no doubt that Patty Griffin's song Mary, and the Indigo Girls song The Girl with the Weight of the World in Her Hands are all over this sermon and spontaneously quoted. And it is also properly tagged with the 'probably has buffy at it's heart' category.  DFTBA!

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