Weekly Bible Devotional
“Those Who Dream Sow Joy”
December 12, 2021
Prayer by Sarah Are:
Creator God, Scripture is flooded with dream-like images: the lion lying down with the lamb, justice rolling like a mighty river, swords being beaten into plowshares, the prisoner being set free, good news to the oppressed, the whole world rejoicing. To our human ears, there are times when these words can sound like nothing more than a far-off dream— downplaying prophecy to fantasy. However, what we know is that to dream is to hope, and to hope is to imagine, and to imagine is to wonder, and to wonder is to believe, and to believe is to live and breathe for your promised day. So give us the strength to listen as we dream, O God. For deep down, we know your words are the very thing we need. Amen.
Scripture for Sunday: Luke 1:46-55
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Notes on the Text:
These words of Mary’s song are familiar to us, but their true meaning and power are better appreciated when we think of the historical, political, and social context for Mary and her people. The vision which Mary proclaimed was far away from the realities of her time. Her joy didn’t come because everything was already fulfilled. Her joy came from knowing that the seed of God’s love was already planted in her heart and in her own body. Mary knew deep within her that the baby she was carrying was going to change the world. When she visited her cousin Elizabeth who affirmed her faith, there was great joy that welled up in her because she knew that God’s dream for justice and peace was still alive and that no hardship could stop that dream from unfolding.
In Mary’s song, the Magnificat, God totally changes the order of things. God takes that which is on the bottom and puts it on top. God revolutionizes the way we think, the way we act, and the way we live. Most of us are impressed with money, power, beauty, and education. But God revolutionizes all of that. The poor are put on the top. The Magnificat clearly tells us of God’s compassion for the economically poor. Five important words in Mary’s song emphasize God’s compassion for the poor: God regards or respects the poor, exalts the poor, feeds the poor, helps the poor, remembers the poor. God chooses Mary who is a slave girl to be the mother of Jesus. God does not choose a princess or a powerful woman. God chooses a teenage girl who was part of an oppressed group of people, the Jews who were occupied by the Romans. Girls in that part of the world were not regarded in high esteem. They were considered to be the property of their fathers and later on of their husbands. I am reminded of the horrific practice of “honor killings” of girls and women when they are seen as dishonoring of their families. There was an article in the news yesterday about such an incident in India: https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/07/india/india-teenager-beheaded-sister-intl-scli/index.html. I am also mindful of the pervasiveness of violence against women in our own culture.
The Greek word doulos describes Mary in this chapter in Luke as a slave. So, God exalted a slave girl to fulfill God’s purposes of love. Yet, something was truly unique about Mary. The whole Christ event took place because Mary was in touch with something other than her calculating mind. Her imagination and her ability to see visions were strong and alive. Her imagination was powerful enough to allow her to catch the dream of God for the world. Even though no human mind would have imagined Christ coming into the world through the faith of a lowly young woman, Mary’s imagination was big enough to see beyond our human limitations. Mary was also grounded in the biblical tradition of other women before her who believed in God’s promises and who broke into song when they experienced God’s presence. Miriam, the sister of Moses, danced and sang when the people experienced freedom from being enslaved in Egypt, Exodus 15:20. Deborah, who was a judge sang to God according to Judges 5. Then we have Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who sang a song (1 Samuel 2:-10) that is very similar to Mary’s song. Mary was inspired by the song of these women before her because they believed in God’s dream and in the fulfilment of that dream through them.
Mary’s joy was deeply rooted in God’s dream. Believing that God’s dream for freedom and peace to be possible despite the despair and pain of the time was a radical act of sowing seeds of joy.
Advent is a time for dreaming big dreams, and so we ask ourselves: What if we lived believing Mary’s Magnificat that God is turning the world into goodness? What if we studied the Bible and the work of the Spirit in our lives and believed in this positive imagination of our world? Would we be able to accept that God uses anyone and turns our standards upside down? Are we willing to receive from whomever God chooses as a vehicle for revelation? What if it is someone we don’t hold in high esteem? What if it is someone who is otherwise marginalized by society and the circles of power? What if it is you? Are you ready to imagine with God such a world? Are you ready for such deep joy?
Mary- Poem by Sarah Are
When I was young, my church hosted a Christmas pageant.
Families would show up on Christmas Eve
With diaper bags and children thrown over their shoulders.
No amount of Silent Night could quiet that room.
It was a holy and beautiful chaos.
What was special about that church Christmas pageant,
Was we, the children, got to pick our character in the story.
So for one night, we could be Magi in Burger King crowns.
We could be angels with wings made of clothes hangers.
We could be shepherds in bathrobes, protecting the flock.
We could be Mary, beautiful and brave.
And the preacher would stand on the steps
And tell us the Christmas story,
And as our character entered the scene,
We would run down the center aisle and assume our place at the manger.
(As an aside: Is there anything more holy than seeing a child
Run down that center aisle, as if getting closer to God is all they have in mind?)
And as the story progressed, the front steps would become crowded
With dozens of Magi and a wide array of animals,
But I would always choose Mary.
I would always choose Mary—
Mary the teen mom.
Mary who said, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”
Mary who sang.
For even at that age, even as a child,
We could tell that Mary was afraid, and into that dark, Mary sang.
So I and most of the other little girls in the church that night,
Would tighten the blue bed sheets draped around our shoulders,
And run down the center aisle when our name was called.
For in that moment,
We were on our way.
In that moment,
We were those who dream.
In that moment,
We were all Mary.
In that moment,
We were brave.
Poem by Sarah Are
The Third Week of Advent | Sunday
those who dream… sow joy