An Advent Reflection for Thursday, December 23rd by Rev. Rebekah Strobel
Lectionary reading for 12/23/2021: Luke 1:46b-55; Micah 4:6-8; 2 Peter 1:16-21
Selected passage for reflection: Luke 1:46b-55
Luke 1:46b-55, The Voice
My soul lifts up the Lord! My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!
For though I’m God’s humble servant, God has noticed me. Now and forever, I will be considered blessed by all generations.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me; holy is God’s name! From generation to generation, God’s lovingkindness endures for those who revere Him.
God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds. The proud in mind and heart, God has sent away in disarray. The rulers from their high positions of power, God has brought down low. And those who were humble and lowly, God has elevated with dignity.
The hungry—God has filled with fine food. The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands. To Israel, God’s servant, God has given help, As promised to our ancestors, remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.
Reading through the words of Mary, I keep coming back to that first verse- “My Spirit celebrates God, my liberator”. This is a young woman who recently learned she was miraculously pregnant…a woman who didn’t ask to be pregnant, and who knowingly took on shame and ridicule from the society around her, even to the point of risking losing her fiancé. Nothing about that sounds liberating, and yet her words of triumph as she cries out in praise are of liberation…that God has liberated her, that God is in the work of liberating all people. When faced with absolutely overwhelming realities, Mary chooses revolutionary praise… I think Mary has what I so often lack- the ability to step back and take in the fullness of what God is doing.
One of my favorite artists is Monet. I recently went to an exhibit of his works in Boston, and learned that his focus (like all the impressionists) was not on capturing a landscape perfectly, but on capturing the feeling the scene produced. If you get close to one of his works of art, you see brushstrokes and color but nothing makes sense….however, as you step further back it all comes into focus and makes you feel. The wonder of a rolling ravine, the stillness of a lily pad on the water… the feeling is the bigger picture.
In a time of uncertainty, when her personal life is in upheaval, living in a society in which she is a part of an oppressed people group crying out for change, when the world around her has achieved “peace” at the expense of those who would step out of line…Mary’s song is an act of rebellion--screaming out to the world that her God is liberator. Hagar once called the Lord, “the God who sees”. God sees Mary, all of her, and liberates. God has remembered her, and she is given a glimpse of the whole picture…toppling the mighty, elevating the lowly; a full reversal of the status quo where the oppressed and least heard are valued and given satisfaction. The truth Mary sings out is that those who hurt and toil and strive for what is good and right will be seen and uplifted.
With a world of challenge swirling around her, Mary’s words anchor her in truth. God has seen her. God will continue to see her. God has not left her. God will never leave. God hears it all, knows it all, and is in the work of redeeming and healing it all.
A weary world rejoices…souls, feel your worth.
What does this season feel like for you?
If the realities of the world are swirling relentlessly around you, take a few moments to breathe deep and anchor yourself in what is true.
What has God done in your life in the past?
How can you experience God’s truth in the present?
What can you declare about God for the future?
If your life feels full of hope and promise, cry out to God on behalf of others and tell God what is so good and true in your life right now. Reach out to your fellow human, provide space for their hurt, and give from your depths of joy.
Creator and redeemer God, thank you for seeing me. For seeing us. For seeing all of it. When the core of who I am is in agony, remind me what’s true. Remind me that you cry out and rage alongside me. You see the wrong and your heart breaks. You have not left me and you will not leave me. When I feel at peace, you are holding the hurt for the rest of the world while you delight alongside me. You are never only one thing, but are all things and so I know you’re with me in this thing. Help me today to pause, to anchor myself in what is true, and to rejoice in you, the Liberator of all. Amen.
About the Author
Rebekah Strobel is an ordained reverend who lives in Des Moines, WA with her husband Nate, and her stepson Jack. She received a Communications degree from Azusa Pacific University in 2008, and graduated from North Park Theological Seminary with her Master of Divinity in 2013. After years of Church ministry she has transitioned to non-profit leadership, overseeing a group of people who provide social and spiritual services for low-income and affordable housing communities. Officiating weddings regularly is one of her great joys, as is building up future leaders. She loves Jesus, people, laughing, crying and nature.