Pointing to Peace

A sermon by Pastor Michael Pahl on December 9, 2018, the Second Sunday of Advent, called “Pointing to Peace.” It is a reflection on Luke 1:57-79.

Here is a written excerpt:

There’s a lot of singing in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel, have you ever noticed? In fact, the opening of Luke’s Gospel has so much singing it could be a musical.

Mary shows up at Elizabeth’s door—two unlikely women glowing with child, blessed by the Spirit of God—and they immediately burst into song. It’s a duet, actually: Elizabeth sings a blessing upon Mary, and Mary sings praise to God.

Then Elizabeth gives birth to her child and at the circumcision ceremony Zechariah bursts into song: the song we have as our Scripture text this morning.

But keep reading into chapter two. Mary gives birth to her child and a whole choir of angels appears to a bunch of shepherds out in the field, and they burst into song: “Glory to God in the highest heaven!”

And then Mary and Joseph appear in the Temple for the birth purification ceremony, and first old man Simeon and then old woman Anna burst into song.

You can’t hardly turn a corner before someone bursts into song! There’s a song for every occasion in the story of Jesus’ birth, from pre-birth announcement to post-birth ceremony, from the heavens above to the earth below.

But these are not just any songs—they are subversive songs of hope and peace and joy. Subversive, because they sing about peace in the midst of turmoil. Subversive, too, because they sing truth to power.

Scan through Luke 1-2 sometime, and just read the lyrics to these songs. They all have similar themes:

God has shown his power and mercy,

and this is good news of salvation for the lowly, the humble, the hungry, and the poor,

but it’s not-so-good news of judgment on the rich, the powerful, the cruel, and the violent.

The result of this divine salvation and judgment? Peace. True and lasting peace.

This is in fact the ancient song of the singing prophets, from Miriam and Deborah to Amos and Isaiah.

God is coming!

Woe to the privileged powerful!

Blessed are the weak and lowly!

Peace on earth for all on whom God’s favour rests!

Of course, for those living in turmoil, this takes a lot of faith, to believe this good news. We still live in our “hill country of Judea,” after all. We still live under the pretentious delusions of our “King Herod.” We still live under the oppressive thumb of our “Emperor Augustus.”

But that’s what good songs do, inspiring this kind of impossible faith. It’s what good art does. It holds up a mirror to the human condition, giving us a dose of cold hard reality, while at the same time inspiring us to look through that mirror to something more, something beyond, giving us a sense of who we can become.

So, as we journey this Advent on our way to Christmas, as we live in the turmoil of our world and the turmoil of our own hearts and minds, let’s seek out subversive songs of hope and peace and joy. Let’s allow our moral imaginations to be sparked by songs and stories and painting and poetry and more—not the shallow stuff that leaves us unchanged, comfortable in our delusions, but the good stuff that shows the world as it truly is while also showing the world as it truly can become.

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