Dr. Steve Lindsley
(Luke 1: 46-56)

There is a recurring moment that happens in any number of movies or television shows you may have seen.  It happens when the two lead characters – often a love interest – find themselves at some crossroad, some seminal moment in the story’s plotline that is not without an element of danger or risk, and the power of that relationship is what is needed to save the day.

That is the moment when one character turns to the other and says four words:

Do you trust me?

Jack says it to Rose as the Titanic is sinking – do you trust me?  Katniss says it to Peeta in the Hunger Games arena as she hands him the poisoned berries from her pocket – do you trust me?  Jamie Lannister says it to brother Tyrion as he stands trial in “Game of Thrones” – do you trust me?  Aladdin says it to Jasmine right before the two whisk away on his magic carpet – do you trust me?

And although those four words do not appear directly in our passage today, it is most certainly the pretext underlying all that is happening here, all that is taking place in what amounts to a song – the Magnificat, as it’s come to be called.  Today is the first Sunday of Advent; and in our Advent sermon series Rebecca and I are preaching on songs.  Now there are plenty of songs of this season, of course – songs we know well, songs we love.  But in scripture, in the stories of Advent found in the Bible, there are four specific songs we are going to look at.  They are: Zechariah’s song of faith, Simeon’s song of hope, the angels’ song of peace, and today, Mary’s song of trust. 

And this song of trust begins like any good piece of music – a soft melody, starting quietly but growing louder.  The angel Gabriel has been sent to announce things to people who are not expecting an angel to come their way and certainly not expecting the news that he will bring.  And so leading up to our passage today, Gabriel finds his way to a small shack in the rural town of Nazareth and the teenager in the house.  Her name is Mary, and she is engaged to a nice young man down the street named Joseph.  Her life is just beginning, it seems.

Greetings, favored one! is how the angel greets young Mary – and she is immediately suspicious.  And who could blame her?  A wild-looking stranger shows up on your doorstep with an over-the-top greeting, and you’re likely to wonder what it is they want to sell you.  Mary’s inner strength is on full-display as she wonders what kind of greeting this might be.  To which the angel responds with words we know well:

Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.

And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,

and you will name him Jesus.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High,

and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.

He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. 

Which, to state the obvious, is quite a lot to drop in the lap of an as-yet unmarried, young teenage woman!   Even in her youth, Mary is quite aware of the preposterousness, and even the danger, of the scenario the angel describes – a scenario that intimately involves her.  For even if it were possible for Mary to become pregnant at this point in her relationship with Joseph – which it was not – it would be a travesty were that to happen, as the ancient middle eastern world (and one could argue ours as well) did not take kindly to young engaged women who suddenly became pregnant.  What would the neighbors say?? 

Once again, Mary’s inner strength shines forth as she speaks directly to the angel: How can this be, since I’m a virgin?  And the angel goes to great lengths to assure her that the Holy Spirit will be involved, that her cousin Elizabeth is also unexpectedly expecting, and most of all, at the end of the day, “nothing will be impossible with God.”

In other words: do you trust me?

And she does.  In fact, she trusts so much that she sings about it:

God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant

God has done great things for me.

God has shown strength and scattered the proud

God has brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly

God has filled the hungry with good things. 

And you know what it is that makes this song a song of trust?  It’s not just the images expressed of seismic change and a God who is getting ready to do something amazing.  It’s not just the melody we envision her singing; music that by its very nature amplifies the emotion of the words themselves.  No, this song is a song of trust because of one word in particular she sings, over and over again; a word we very well might have missed:

 God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant

God has done great things for me.

God has shown strength and scattered the proud

God has brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly

God has filled the hungry with good things.

 Do you see?  This song is a song of trust because, as one scholar puts it, Mary “partners with God in bringing about the future, so that future is articulated as memory.”  Or, more simply put, Mary sings of things yet to come as if they have already happened.  That is how certain she is of this God who has shown up on her doorstep and in no uncertain terms tells her that her life, and the life of the world, is about to radically change forever.  And Mary receives that.  Such inner strength!  She steps up to the plate, she accepts the calling, she goes “all in.”  And she sings a song about it.  A song of trust.

 Tell me this, Trinity: what kind of trust do you think that takes?  More than just believing in something, right?  More than simply agreeing with an angel’s words?  Think of the heralded “trust fall” exercise – you know the one, you’re standing on a chair, facing one way with a host of folks behind you, ready to catch you when you fall.  This trust we’re talking about – it’s more than simply standing up on that chair with your back to all those people who you know, you know are going to catch you.  More than getting up the nerve to begin the process of leaning back – which, don’t get me wrong, takes trust.  But nothing like the trust of when you reach that point of no return – that instant in time when your body senses gravity and inertia taking over and every fiber in your being screams “stop!”  But you keep going anyway.

Do you trust me?

Some number of years ago I read about the three advents.  I think I’ve told you this before.  There was a scholar who shared that in the church’s more mystical traditions it’s always been understood that there are three Advents – three arrivals of Jesus, as the word “advent” means coming or arrival.  The first advent is the coming of Jesus being born into the world.  The second advent is the coming of Jesus into our hearts.  And the third advent is the coming of Jesus at the end of times.

And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m convinced that we are better at the first and third than we are the second. We are great at preparing for the birth of Jesus – every November and December we get all kinds of things ready. Gifts are bought and wrapped.  Trees are decorated. Advent wreaths are hung and candles lit.  And likewise, we pay a fair amount of attention to the third advent, although it’s perhaps not something to be proud of – we over-focus on the end times and all the trials and tribulations of what we are told will come, often at the expense of how we choose to live in the here and now

 But it’s that second Advent – the coming of Jesus into our hearts – that often gets lost in the shuffle.  And I wonder if the reason for that is because it requires the most trust.  It’s not something we can do simply by opening that box of holiday decorations and hanging all the stuff again.  Nor is it something we do simply by imagining in our minds what might – might – happen one day.  No, this second advent requires great trust of us, because welcoming Jesus into our hearts – into that most sacred of places – is to go all-in with who he is and what he has come here to be and do.  Because that second Advent is not a once-a-year thing or something destined for the far-off future.  It is happening all the time, every moment.  It’s that second advent that Mary sings about.  A song of the coming of Jesus into her heart.  A song of trust. 

Beloved, do we trust Jesus on this first Sunday of Advent?  Do we trust him to place a new song in our hearts, a song that longs to be sung at the top of our lungs, a song that boldly lays claim to all that he has done, is doing, and will be doing in our lives?

Do we trust Jesus enough to put ourselves out there for the sake of the gospel – to live our lives differently because of the melody of this new song that’s coursing through our veins, the spirit of radical love inhaled and exhaled with every breath?

Do we trust Jesus enough to head straight into our broken and hurting and fractured world – a world desperate for a new song, a world longing for something to believe and someone to trust in – do we trust Jesus enough to work with him to bring that world the wholeness and healing it so longs for?

Do we trust Jesus enough to let go – let go of all the things that get in the way of that lovely new song, all the things that would stifle our hearing and mute our voices and cause the melody to be ever-so slightly out of tune?  Do we trust Jesus enough to let go of all that and instead grab hold of what will draw us closer to each other and closer to the God who dares to tell us some amazing news?

On this first Sunday of Advent, as we prepare for the second advent, we hear the voice asking us, “Do you trust me?”  What, I wonder, will our answer be?

 In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, thanks be to God – and may all of God’s people say, AMEN!



* Because sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation, the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.