Advent day 19- Lowly lifting

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; 
      he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly…”  Luke 1:46-52.

In the previous posts I spoke about my own proud thoughts and negative powers that God is gradually scattering and bringing down in my life.  By hearing these words of Mary in personal terms, I don’t mean to trivialize the radical, universal nature of what Mary is claiming here.  As has been so evident in the last week with the Newtown tragedy, we need Christ to come and set things right.  That’s the promise.  Nevertheless in the meantime God seems to be carrying out this promise in a behind-the-scenes way, changing individuals and calling groups to be salt and light in the world.

And so today we hear that God has “lifted up the lowly.”

I see God’s “lifting” work being done in so many ways, in so many places.  A few simple examples:  people in our congregation arranged an afternoon of hospitality to take family Christmas portraits in a troubled neighborhood of the city.  Another team drove to NJ and spent a day helping with Sandy clean-up.  Next week over Christmas break some are volunteering to staff the church-sponsored shelter for the homeless.  This to me is God working through us to lift up the lowly.

Bear with me as I go personal with this text again.  Today I am sitting in my study hoping to crank out three messages for the coming week.  I never feel more lowly than when I face this task of what to say to the people of God.  I’m an introvert and would rather not speak; to do so drains me.  But the idea that I must speak words that perhaps God can use to nurture and challenge God’s people (or perhaps not) is daunting.  And I am aware of my lowliness.  That God’s word does come through is a great testament to God’s grace in my lowly work and the congregation’s great patience.

So here I am, sitting wordless in my lowliness and not feeling the least bit lifted up yet.  Except I keep remembering my morning walk where about a half hour before sunrise there was an amazing flush of rose fire in one quarter of the sky.  For a few minutes only the clouds were vivid.  The browned grass wore a pink, frosty wash.  The dark flowing water of Trout Run became a racing maroon current.  By the time I had hurried up cemetery hill, everything was fading back to a slate gray and cloud cover was closing the slim  sky opening, preventing sunlight from being seen today.

What does that have to do with the scripture text or my task of the day?  Only this and only tangentially: any lowly one who is homeless, any lowly one who faces yet another day of flood clean-up, any lowly one who was unable to sleep last night because of grief over the death of a child, any of these lowly ones might have glimpsed the incredible beauty of God’s creation.  While God will lift up all lowly one day in amazing ways, today God offered us free beauty as we plow ahead into our day of lowly and perhaps painful tasks.  A few may have seen it and been lifted up.  That’s my prayer anyway.

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly…