Sermon by Deacon Peggy Day

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Advent- December 20, 2020 at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church

When reflecting on this Gospel lesson, I thought of Mary Did You Know ,a song written by Greene Lee Ruftus back in 1991 .  The melody was by Lowry Mark Allen.  It is a song about Mary, an unlikely human being to bring God’s love into the world.

Who was Mary?  (Share culture of her time)

  • A peasant woman in first –century Palestine, who wore  sandals made of palm bark, and fastened with straps of flax, rope or leather.
  • Women were subordinate to the men and had few, if any, property  or inheritance rights
  • No opportunities for education—Aramaic language
  • Thought to be probably only 13/14.  Young, but women were not expected to live beyond 40s because of all that was expected of them …caring for the household and childbearing.  Mary was not privileged with electrical appliances to help her and no medical advances , like we have today.
  • Women began preparing for their roles as early as six/seven and were taught by their mothers.  She would have helped her mother with sewing, cooking, washing, caring for other children in the house, caring for the animals , and kneading dough for bread.  She would accompany her mother to the market to sell surplus from their own yields.  She might have learned some Greek words.
  • When fingers were developed enough would have been taught about the loom, about weaving, as women were expected to produce most of the clothing worn by the family.  This was a complicated process.

Again, Mary is  not a likely person to bring God’s love into the world.  But, what is we have been hearing all of Advent?  Listen again to the words of Isaiah… “in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord., make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level…” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

God ‘s desire about treating people different from the way most would, treating with dignity and reset, as equal, began with that conversation between Gabriel  and a virgin girl engaged to be married to a man named Joseph.

Imagine her, maybe sitting at one of those primitive looms trying to make a piece of cloth to turn into a garment.  Then an angel appears and surprises her and say, “The Lord is with you?”  Of course she was perplexed and afraid, “What can this mean?  I am already engaged to someone and I am a female.  She knows her place.  Then Gabriel tell her not to be afraid and proceeds to tell her that she will conceive by the Holy Spirit and bear God’s son.  Can you imagine?  Women could be stoned to death for having a baby that was not her husband’s…for adultery. 

This could have ended up differently.  Mary could have said “Nope find someone else.  I can’t do that.”

But she said “yes”.  Gabriel reminded her, as he does us, with the yearly reading of this story, “Nothing is impossible with God”.  So, Mary says, “I will be God’s servant.  Here I am”.  Let it be so.

Who among us might be saying “Yes” and also carrying God’s love to the world? Is it my neighbor, who smells bad and looks disheveled?  Is it the homeless woman walking toward me pushing a shopping cart that holds all her earthly goods? 

God tries to level the hills and the mountains, the barriers, so we can see and know God.  But, we keep erecting them by holding up status, difference, and material wealth as power over others.  God uses ALL, to show us that it is not about what you have, but rather about having an open heart to see God in unlikely places, feel God with unlikely people, those I find difficult to be with, that are not like me.  They have a disability of some kind, are homeless, poor, female, or from a different sexual orientation or culture, their skin is not my color.

God wants to level the ground and cannot do it if we don’t want to, if we don’t let go of our fear, as Mary did to become God’s servants and say “Yes” as we  open our hearts to who might be also saying ‘Yes’.

As we wait for the birth of Christ during this time of the pandemic and in an unfamiliar territory, let us let go of our fear and open our hearts to look for who might be bringing God’s gift of Love to us , to St. Patrick’s .  Will we be willing to open the gift?