Advent day 16- Metaphors

And Mary sang:  “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.  Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name.  His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.  He has shown strength with his arm….”  Luke 1:46-51.

I love metaphors and use them all the time.  Spirit is wind.  Christ is light.  My granddaughter is sunshine. Books are a retreat.  Uncertainty is a dense fog.  A listening friend is a cup of cold water in a desert.

Mary uses a metaphor:  God has shown strength with his arm.  I managed to disconcert a few people in bible study the other week when I suggested that I don’t believe God (as Creator/Father/ first person of the Trinity) has a body as we know it.  God is not literally showing strength by something God is doing with an arm: wielding a sword in battle, tossing bolts of lightening, shaping humans from dust or holding back the sea.

It seems to me that “strength of his arm” used here and other times in Hebrew scriptures is a metaphor for the powerful ways God works to defend and care for God’s people.  And that’s how Mary, pregnant with Jesus, is using the metaphor, especially if we read the verses that follow (which we will over the next few days.).

But wait!  Once Jesus enters the picture, the metaphor melts into reality.  Jesus actually has an arm, two of them,in fact.  What exactly do we see Jesus doing with the strength of his arm?  Jesus pointing to the other side of the boat for the disciples to throw their fishing nets.  Jesus picking up a child to bless.  Jesus spreading mud on a blind man’s eyes.  Jesus taking a whip to the tables of money changers in the temple.  Jesus writing on the ground to divert a group of self-righteous leaders and protect a needy woman.  Jesus carrying a basin of water to wash dirty disciples’ feet.  Jesus blessing and breaking bread with “tax-collectors and sinners.”  Jesus with arms outstretched on the cross. Jesus uses his arms to defend and care for God’s people.  Actually, he uses his arms to save all of humankind.  And that is not a metaphor!