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Living Joyfully

Sunday December 17th, 2023

By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche


Good morning and welcome again to what is in our tradition the third Sunday in Advent.


What a gift that we have this place and this people and some time to slow down and give thanks. I invite you now to take some deeper breathes. We breathe out fear and breathe in hope, letting us all arrive a bit more fully to hear whatever word God has for us today.


I invite you to join me in the preacher’s prayer from Psalm 19.


Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Rock, and our Redeemer Amen.


God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.


God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;


God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.


No this is not a radical new protest chant for 2023, these are words from Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, who was navigating state sanctioned violence and persecution and who still sung out in joy. As you might remember, this text is part of a hymn that Christian tradition has called the Magnificat, which is Latin for “my soul magnifies the Lord!”


And for centuries it has been used in the liturgies of some traditions and it is precious to me and many others. As far as I know, it is the most words a woman is given in the entire Bible. So even with all of the barriers, these words were included, kept for us, preserved for us and now offered to us in this moment as a gift.


And I feel like I need them, as if this is a moment to call up on not just the wisdom of our ancestors but the wisdom from our tradition, from the power of what has managed to withstand time.


God has scattered the proud…

God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;

God has filled the hungry with good things…


My Soul magnifies the Lord! And to magnify is to make something seem larger so I wonder if Mary is celebrating that she can be seen and shines and refuses to be in despair and chooses joy in what is to come, in spite of what is happening around her. She refuses to shrink, instead she will magnify!!!


And she will keep singing of what she knows God wants, of what our Greater Love wants.


I have been holding these words and others close to me right now, as this is a biblical vision for the world. 

I want to lift them up and to sing them and to shout them to share them with the pundits who continue to repeat the simplistic subjective falsehood that one person’s interpretation of our sacred text is THE BIBLICAL VISION for the world. As you might have heard, the person who is third in line to be the President of the United States has shared that he sees himself as a Moses, in an interview that if you want to know how we will govern, and I quote “Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.” But it’s clear that he doesn’t mean Mary’s vision, of this biblical vision- of a soul rejoicing to God for looking upon the lowly, for the Mighty One to do great things for the poor.


I have shared before that during many times throughout our history, these words from the Gospel of Luke were seen as too radical, too revolutionary- so they have been banned by many governments. So when the British governed India, they couldn’t be sung in worship. And in the 1980’s these words weren’t allowed to be recited in public in Guatemala and in Argentina the military junta prohibited them from being displayed on posters created by the mothers of Los Desaparecidos.


Mary offers us a vision of rejoicing, a vision of enough, a vision of refusing to be in despair, a vision of not turning inward and giving up, a vision of choosing joy, in spite of what is happening. 


Arundhati Roy, the writer and poet says that part of loving fully and truly is “To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places.”


There are lots of sad places on planet earth right now. I was devastated to wake up to read the front page of our paper to see that Har Hashem received a bomb threat this weekend.

But let us not forget that living joyfully is still allowed, that we need joy in fact to keep going. And joy is something we can create and find, and maybe like Mary we are called to be in awe, and to look for miracles, even in the saddest of circumstances.  

And we can live joyfully when we create the space within ourselves as we heard from the Book of Joy, when we live with a sense of gratitude and not out of a sense of scarcity. Mary’s vision is one of enough! 

It's a vision of not shrinking, a vision of all of us magnifying and shining bright, it’s a vision of rejoicing, a vision where the people whom the world has decided are lowly are included and leading and there is blessing for all generations and whatever name we have for God, it is a force that works in all of us, with mercy when we see our place in the order of things and God is strong and that strength shows up in all of us, in righting relationship so that a small group isn’t using their power to cause harm so then the hungry are fed and those that have more than enough aren’t given more and everyone has what they need and this is Good News! And it is a biblical vision!


I feel like Mary is reaching through time to all of us with these words, with her vision in a way and asking us not to let her be silenced, to let them be heard and sung and known. We can rejoice still, even now! Even in these sad places.


We will take two minutes now as we are moved to listen or share a little about Mary’s revolutionary words and rejoicing and how you are finding joy and living joyfully right now. Share as you are moved!


COMMUNAL REFLECTION


Beloved of God, do not be afraid to be joyful right now, to find joy, to create joy, to share joy with others. Let us live Mary’s revolutionary vision. Let us magnify it in us, with our own lights for more love and justice, for the world as it is and the world not yet. May it be so. Amen.




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