“Each night, we secretly huddled around the radio,” she says, “eagerly hoping to receive a signal, a coded message that tells us, ‘The invasion has begun.’” An old Dutch woman remembers the dark days of Christmas 1944 as Holland awaited its day of redemption. She continues, “We scanned the skies, looking for the Allies’ planes. People walked along the dikes, hoping for some ships appearing on the horizon. We desperately prayed. People in Holland were starving. The Jews were already taken away. We asked, ‘Could we endure another year of Nazi occupation?’”
Hearing this story, what we can do is just to imagine. What would it be like to be captives and living under surveillance and oppression? How would it feel, helplessly waiting for deliverance from outside? It’s not easy for us to even imagine, because we don’t really know anything about living in captivity, because we live our lives in freedom. Right? Well…really?
For sure we are not living in such a tragic time like Nazi occupation. But I think, “captivity” comes in different forms these days. We might feel like we are free to change our lives and society whenever we make up our minds. But in reality, we still are powerless captives. We are caught in our personal struggles. There are debts and bills burdening us, illnesses and accidents devastating us, damaged relationships left unfixed, and other problems defying solutions. And we are caught in a broken social system. I feel hopeless, whenever I hear the news of gun-violence and mass-shooting. People send thoughts and prayers to the victims. Then what? Nothing changes; we hear the same news next week. What about the political divide that is getting wider and deeper? What about the growing discrimination based on our race, immigration status, gender and sexuality, and religion? Can we confidently say that we are free from those conditions of captivity? I don’t think we can. True, captivity comes in different forms these days and claims us.
To us living in this modern-day captivity, nevertheless, the good news of Advent is delivered. Like a signal, like a coded message, it tells us nothing but this, “The invasion has begun.” The wait is over. The divine intervention is about to take place. Do not lose your hope yet. God is on your way. And this Season of Advent especially tunes in its frequency to the channel of Luke’s Gospel. The Gospel of Luke transmits a clear herald, the good news about the invasion of God. And today, this good news comes through a song. It’s the song of Mary, which is traditionally called, the Magnificat.
Sung by gentle Mary, meek and mild, this song may seem like a peaceful lullaby that only comforts our fearful hearts in captivity. Sung by the holy virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, the God-bearer (theotokos), this song may look like a praise for the divine favor exclusively given to Mary. But it’s not just a song of comfort or fortune, but a song of the good news. Listen to her song again for the first time today.
Mary begins to sing, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant” (Luke 1:46-48). Here, through her experience, Mary comes to know that this coming God is not for the powers of the world. This God is different. God has no reason to choose Mary, who is humble and lowly. But God does. Then, Mary realizes that this God is the one who is emphatically on the side of the poor, the hungry, the weak, the vulnerable, and the captives. See, she continues to sing, “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:51-53).
Through her experience, Mary understands who God is. And she realizes that this revolutionary invasion of God has been underway. In the coming new kingdom of God, the way things are in this world will be radically transformed. Her son Jesus will inaugurate this new kingdom and announce the good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free. How magnificent is this good news, indeed. Magnificent!
Here we see, Mary’s Magnificat is neither a peaceful lullaby nor a personal praise. Rather, it’s a vigorous battle cryfor the invasion of God; it’s a passionate overture to the revolutionary ministry of Jesus Christ. Especially, to us living in the modern-day captivity, this song is an awakening prelude to the lifegiving ministry of Jesus that has put an end to our captivity. And this song is an alarm sound that wakes us up to join God’s forces and change the world with love and grace.
Today, the good news of God’s invasion has been delivered to us through the song of Mary. But one question still remains, “Can we sing with Mary today…can we?” From the bottom of our hearts? Not just from our lips but also in our action? Mary certainly received amazing grace from God. But the grace of God we have received in our lives is never less than that. God loved us while we were yet sinners. And God wants to work through us, the humble and the lowly, to turn the land of captivity into the land of milk and honey. See, we have reasons to sing the song of Mary, raise our prophetic voices, and share the good news with other captives around us. We cannot just sit back and relax; we cannot just ignore the call and enjoy happy holidays.
Thus, we sing. Sing aloud the song of Mary. Our souls magnify the Lord today and our spirits rejoice in God our Savior, for the Lord has looked with favor on the lowliness of the servants of God, for the Lord has called all of us to be comrades of God’s holy invasion. The Lord has empowered us and anointed us to liberate people from the captivity in the name of Jesus; liberate them from the bondage to sin and death with unconditional love and grace of God; liberate them from social evils by our faithful work of mercy. By our hands and feet, the Lord feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, forgives the guilty, welcomes the stranger, cares for the ill, and loves the unlovable.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, our God’s vision for Christmas is not just to transform the world on a surface level with glittering Christmas decorations. No, it’s not… God’s invasion is to transform the world from its root, from its very bottom. Let us hear clearly the good news today, “The invasion has begun!” And let us sing the magnificent song of liberation until every valley of inequity is filled and every mountain of oppression is lowered down, until all the captives are released from chains and bondages and all the flesh see the salvation of God. You, all God’s faithful servants! Prepare the way of the Lord and make his path straight! Amen.
Will Willimon, Will Willimon’s Lectionary Sermon Resource: Year C Part 1(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2018), 27.