You Shall Call His Name Jesus, “Savior:” Emmanuel, “God With Us”
Advent is without doubt my favorite season of the church year. In the midst of the noise and chaos of the world, Christians are called to wait and pray in quiet stillness. When you enter our sanctuary at First Lutheran, you will see a sign inviting you to “Come to the Quiet.” I am sure that you join me in longing for quiet in this season of blaring noise. I love the dark blue color of this season of Advent, as contrasted with the gaudy red and green of the secular world. Indeed, this season is a “blue” season for so many. It is a blue season for those who are grieving the loss of someone they love. It is a blue season for those going through a difficult economic time in this season of commercialism and excess. It is a blue season for those who struggle in the midst of the darkness that has settled over our world in recent days, or who struggle with their own inner darkness, a darkness which cannot be soothed by tawdry glitzy decorations of Santa or Frosty or Rudolph.
No, this is a season in the church year when we recognize that we need a Savior, when are reminded that we have a God who is with us always, shining as a light in the midst of the darkness, as a light which no darkness can overcome.
Mary is the person who speaks to our hearts and our lives during this season of Advent. Mary, a poor, young, unwed peasant, who of her own free will had the courage to say “Yes” to God. Mary, who throughout the ages has been depicted as “meek and mild,” but who in reality was nothing of the sort. Mary who cried out in her Magnificat, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” Mary, like you and me, needed a Savior. Life for Mary was difficult, challenging. Every social construct was against her. But she was far from meek and mild. Like her sister, Hannah, before her (see I Samuel, chapter 2), Mary knew about poverty and oppression. Modeled on the prophet Hannah’s song, she sang a song to the Savior who “shows strength with his arm, and scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts…who has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly, who has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:51-53) Does this sound meek and mild? No, this sounds like a whole different kind of power, like the power of a God who saves us, and who is with us, to the end of the eons (Matthew 28: 20)
This is the season when we remember Mary, who let this Savior be born through her own body, through her saying “Yes” with her own life, to a whole new way of living.
Thirty years later that child she birthed into this world would begin his ministry by quoting another prophet, Isaiah this time: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4: 18-19) Jesus, whose name means “Savior,” was telling us that he was ushering in a kind of world that flips the world’s values upside down. “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” Jesus said after quoting Isaiah. Jesus didn’t just make stuff up. He was steeped in his Jewish tradition, in the hopes and prayers of the fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers in faith who had gone before him. In particular, Jesus had been steeped in the songs of his mother. Jesus’ turning the world’s values upside down are a continuation and a living out of Mary’s own vision, prayer, song.
This Advent, our world still needs a Savior. We watch the news, and it is clear, our world needs a Savior. You need a Savior. I need a Savior. We need a Savior who is “with us” in all things, to the end of the eons. But we need to remember that this Savior comes NOT in some disembodied form, some nebulous ethereal swirl, but incarnate, enfleshed, with us in body, not just in spirit. This Advent longing will only be birthed if you and I today have the courage to follow Mary and to say “Yes!” Yes, I will proclaim the song of my ancestors Hannah and Isaiah, Mary and her son Jesus! Yes I will offer my flesh and blood life, my very body and my daily living, for the purpose letting this Savior be born in my life. For when we have the courage to say “Yes,” then your life and mine enkindle other lives, until this light , at first so small and faint, begins to grow, and build, and overcome the darkness that fills us and surround us. “Yes, let it be! May you, and may I be a part of the Savior’s birth into this world this Christmas!
May you see this light in all you encounter,and may you reflect his light to all you encounter.
Linda Forsberg, Copyright December 1, 2015
Photos: Nativity from Church Beyond the Walls, an outside Street Church which meets every Saturday in Burnside Park, Providence, RI; broken Christmas junk; light in the darkness on the road to Casa del Sol, Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM; the birth of Zach; Christmas Tree with Cross at Second Beach, Newport, RI