Advent 4C: Baby Jesus and the Revolution

The readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent are

Old Testament      Micah 5:2–5a

Psalm                    Luke 1:46b–55 or Psalm 80:1–7

New Testament     Hebrews 10:5–10

Gospel                   Luke 1:39–45 (46–55)

The only two places in the Bible that tell us of the infancy of Jesus are the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The stories they share differ in many points of historic detail. For instance, Luke tells us Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth and only go to Bethlehem to be counted for the census; while Matthew tells us they live in Bethlehem. But the two Gospels agree on a couple points: Jesus isn’t a “baby meek and mild,” but is the long-awaited Messiah and Son of God; and the God of the New Testament church is the same as the God of Israel and Judaism—a God who cares for the poor and the vulnerable of this world. (cf. Raymond E. Brown’s wonderful book, Reading the Gospels with the Church: From Christmas through Easter, 1996, page 30.)

In Luke 1:39-55, we have the story of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and Mary’s canticle, the Magnificat. The theme of that song lifts our spirits way above the saccharine as it reminds us that the God of the Bible saga is truly a God of revolution. This God scatters the arrogant and dethrones the powerful, but lifts up the lowly. This God feeds the hungry, but sends the rich away empty. This is the way God has always been, and ever shall be.

Our present global plague has only made more apparent the injustice and unfairness latent in the structures of our world. Indeed, I would venture to say that our present emphasis on racism only retards our coming to grips with the even more powerful disease and sin of classism. We can fawn over Beyoncé, Oprah, LeBron James and Will Smith, while we utterly despise the homeless of any race who have nowhere to relieve themselves but on our city sidewalks. We routinely exalt the “successful” and trample on the “losers.”

Yes, racism, born in the African slave trade, is America’s “original sin.” But there is nothing original about classism. It has been around forever—long enough so that the mother of our Lord knew how lowly was her estate. And, while racism has been mitigated a bit in the USA, classism has only taken on more aspects with the growth of social media.

So, thank God this Sunday’s gospel message has an edge that disturbs our comfort with elitism and classism. It is an urgent call for us to cast off our arrogance before baby Jesus comes to cast us off. We must stop insulating ourselves from those who suffer if we are to feel the embrace of the Lord of the lowly.

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About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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