A Blessing to Claim

Rev. Megan Huston
December 21, 2014

Luke 1:46-55
46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”56And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

On Monday morning, I did what I recommend no one do, and I checked my email before I got out of bed. When I started reading through church emails, I got to one from Traci Inman that explained that we had not received as many donations for our food baskets as we normally do, and we had added two families, so it would cost about $1000 more than it had in years past. Traci explained that they had to make the order on that morning, so she needed a response as soon as possible. Knowing that the church would do what it took to support this ministry, I worried a little that the donations were down, but I told them to go ahead and make the food order and that we would find a way to pay the difference.

When I got to the office, Sharon had a question for me. She explained that we had received a $1000 check from someone who is not a member, but a friend of the church So Sharon asked where she should put the money. I told her that I knew just the place and we added it to our Christmas basket account, to cover the difference.

A blessing is not something that we earn, but that just sort of happens. Like when gifts mysteriously multiply. I have experienced time and time again the blessings of financial gifts empowering ministry in our congregation. It seems that when there are people in need, or mission based ministries that need to be financed, that somehow a blessing occurs and things work out.

But blessings are not always so obvious. I think sometimes it seems that to be blessed means that things have magically fallen into place in our lives like reading an email at 5 and the problem is resolved by 8. Those who preach what we call a “prosperity gospel” claim that if we would only believe the right things, assent to the right creeds, that our lives would work out for the good- the good being living in a large home, driving a fancy car, and raising a perfect family.

And yet, we find Mary, singing about being blessed. Mary, from Nazareth a village of three or four hundred people… were most were peasants working their own land or tenant farmers working on land owned by someone else. Nazareth, where no signs of wealth have been uncovered.

I think we often confuse blessing and luck. We think that to be blessed means that everything is going right, that we have all we need and more, that we have so much stuff and time that we have it to spare. But what if blessing isn’t about that at all?

Of all the people that God could have chosen to bring Christ into the world. If blessing is connected to prosperity, Mary simply doesn’t qualify. Instead, Mary is the young girl who feels invisible in a crowd. She is stunningly ordinary and yet she chooses to say yes and claim her blessing. I wonder, if you heard a call on your life, would you say yes, or assume the angel was delivering good news to the wrong address?

Or that divine deeds are reserved for more extraordinary ones?

One of my favorite preachers, Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a sermon titled, “Mothers of God,” In it she explains that although Mary was not really asked for her assent, that she still had a choice. Taylor explains that Mary had to decide, “whether to take hold of the unknown life the angel held out to her or whether to defend herself against it however she could.” Taylor continues, “We have similar choices in our own lives, “Yes or no. Yes, I will live this life that is being held out to me or no I will not; yes I will explore this unexpected turn of events or no I will not. And then, she explains, “You can say no to your life, but rest assured that no angels will ever trouble you again.”

At age fourteen, Malala Ushoffzi found out that the Taliban had issued a death threat against her. In 2013, at age 16, Malala spoke these words at the UN-

I don't know what people would be expecting me to say. But first of all, thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and a new life.
Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing. Malala day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. There are hundreds of Human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.
So here I stand... one girl among many.
I speak – not for myself, but for all girls and boys.
I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.
Those who have fought for their rights:
Their right to live in peace.
Their right to be treated with dignity.
Their right to equality of opportunity.
Their right to be educated.
Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.
Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorists group. I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists especially the Taliban.
I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him. This is the compassion that I have learnt from Muhammad-the prophet of mercy, Jesus christ and Lord Buddha. This is the legacy of change that I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of non-violence that I have learnt from Gandhi Jee, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learnt from my mother and father. This is what my soul is telling me, be peaceful and love everyone.
Dear sisters and brothers, we realise the importance of light when we see darkness. We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realised the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.

To borrow Malala’s words that remind me of Mary’s song… Dear Brothers & Sisters- Do remember one thing… that Mary’s Magnificat and the annunciation are not just Mary’s… they are the song of every woman, every boy, and every girl who have recognized their lives as blessed and said yes to life.

This is our fourth and final week to celebrate the season of Advent where we consider the art of watchful waiting. You have been invited to consider “what are you waiting for?” As we prepare for the Christ child to be born into our lives again, I hope you might claim your blessing and know that even the invisible ones, the broken hearted, the poor, the depressed, the lonely, the grieving, the mean-spirited, the guilt-ridden, the unremarkable, the overworked, the underpaid, the messed-up, the put together, the worn out, and the privileged, every single one of us has a blessing to claim.

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