Hello friends! It is the third Sunday of Advent and we are gearing up for Christmas at the church. We are doing both a prerecorded and livestream service. We are prerecording a lessons and carols that will go up at noon and then offering a livestream in the evening.
Here is this morning’s sermon on the magnificat – the text of the sermon and the video from worship.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
December 13, 2020
May We Magnify God’s Love
Let us pretend, for a moment, that a pandemic has not turned the world upside down; and that we are not broadcasting this worship service into your homes this morning.
Let us pretend that I am not standing in an empty sanctuary talking to a camera; but that the sanctuary is full of everyone in our church family – young and old – surrounded by our beautiful Christmas decorations, the holiday spirit palpable as we light the candles on our Advent wreath and sing our favorite Advent and Christmas hymns.
Let us pretend that I have closed out the time of silent confession and that we have sung the Gloria Patri and scattered around the room passing the peace with one another (oh, how I miss hugging you all during the passing of the peace!).
Let us pretend that I am now standing behind the pulpit, wondering how I am going to regain control of this situation; but also kind of hoping that I do not, because what is coming next always leads to chaos.
The children’s sermon.
Admittedly children’s sermons are not one of my stronger suits when it comes to worship leading, but every now and then I find myself reflecting on a passage of scripture that has a really nice visual that could be used to talk about the passage in a way that both kids and adults could understand. This is one of those passages.
So let us, again, pretend for a moment, that I am looking out over a congregation that is not quite ready to sit back down; and I smile, take a deep breath and say, “Well, Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me,’ kids, come on down,” and, after a few moments, am surrounded on the chancel step by our beautiful RCC children, holding up a magnifying glass saying, “Does anyone know what this is?”
You all, of course, might be thinking to yourself, “I wonder where she even knows where she is going with this.”
This is a magnifying glass; it is used to, well, magnify things; it is used to take something small and make it bigger, to enhance something so you can get a better look at it or see some of the details on it or maybe even work on it in a way that you could not without it being magnified.
This morning’s scripture reading talks about magnifying something. It is a song; it is a song sung by Mary, who is Baby Jesus’ mom. The angel Gabriel had appeared to Mary and told her she was going to give birth to Jesus; when the angel left Mary, Mary traveled from Nazareth to a Judean town in the hill country to meet her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. Elizabeth affirmed to Mary that the child in Mary’s womb was, indeed, our Lord and that Mary had believed and responded to God’s call in fulfilment of the promise.
Mary then sang these words that we just heard; this canticle, this song and passage of scripture, is called The Magnificat.
“Magnificat” is a Latin word meaning, “Magnifies,” which points to the first line of this canticle, where Mary sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”
While The Magnificat is often referred to as, “The Song of Mary” or “The Canticle of Mary” or “The Prayer of Mary” it is really not about Mary, at all. It is about God; and it is about what God is doing, not only in Mary’s life, but also in the lives of others and throughout our broken, but also hope-filled world. Mary is not necessarily the one doing these great works that she is singing about – showing mercy and strength, bringing down the powerful and lifting up the lowly and filling the hungry with good things – she is merely magnifying the work that God is doing.
She is making it bigger.
She is enhancing it so that people can see it better or look at the details in a new way.
She is magnifying it so that others can also be part of this work in a way that they might not have been able to before with it being magnified.
“My soul magnifies the Lord; and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”
One of the amazing things about Mary is the fact that she plays a pretty critical role in this story and yet, here she is saying – singing! proclaiming! – “World, this is not about me, this is about God.”
And so she is magnifying the work that God is doing. She is making it bigger so that people can see the details. She is enhancing it so that others can jump in and get to work.
We should all be magnifying God in our lives. We should all be magnifying the work God is doing in our lives and in the world. We should all be magnifying the ways God is breaking through the cracks of our brokenness and making us whole again. We should all be magnifying the ways that God is fulfilling the promise of hope that it is real and that it is always worth holding onto.
Friends, it was with deep sadness that I logged onto prayers on Friday evening and shared the news that Sally Knox, a woman who I have often call the matriarch of our church, had passed away this week.
Sally dedicated her life not only to the work of our church, but to the work of magnifying God’s love within the church and the community. She believed that God was good, that God’s love was real and lifechanging; she served on boards and committees that helped her magnify God’s love through collaboration with others.
Sally was the Sunday School Superintendent many years ago, magnifying God’s love in a way that children could see and understand and learn about. She started our Prayer Shawl Ministry, magnifying God’s love in a way that it could be shared with people in their deepest moments of need. She was an enthusiastic participant and advocate of our Lay Shepherds program, caring for the vulnerable in our congregation through visitation, phone calls and sending cards. She faithfully attended worship, bible study and various suppers and community events, magnifying God’s love by showing up and demonstrating the ministry of presence.
One of our calls, as Christians, is not only to believe in God and live out the Gospel, but also to show others what it means to believe in God and live out the Gospel. It is our call to magnify the work of God in our lives and throughout the world so that people will know what it means to put our trust in God and follow Jesus. Sally did this in her life; I do not think there was a single person in the town of Rehoboth who did not know that she was a member of this church and a woman of deep faith and conviction in Christ.
It should be our hope and our desire that others would feel the same way about us, as well. And not so they know about us; but so they so they know about God.
The Magnificat not only teaches us about the honorable and faithful work of Mary, it also teaches us about a God that is bringing healing and wholeness to a broken world. It is about the responsibility that we all have to magnify the work of God in our lives. This is not just a canticle of Mary; this should be a canticle of all the faithful.
So friends, let us magnify the work of God in our lives. Let us make that work bigger so that others can see it. Let us enhance it so they can see the details of God’s work and understand how it can transform their lives and create a better world for all of us. Let us, like Mary, proclaim the fulfillment of God’s promise.
God’s promise of hope.
God’s promise of peace.
God’s promise of joy.
God’s promise of love.
God’s promise of Christ – Emmanuel – God with us.
Friends, as we continue to journey through an Advent and Christmas season that feels strange and unfamiliar at times, may our souls magnify the Lord in a way that is familiar so that when love bursts forth on that Christmas morning with the arrival of the Christ child, we will be able to magnify God’s love in a way that others might see and know and be changed by God.
Thanks be to God!