December 17, 2018
Savior of the nations, come;
virgin's son, make here your home.
Marvel now, O heav'n and earth:
God has chosen such a birth.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship
The lectionary readings for this coming Sunday, December 23, 2018, the fourth Sunday of Advent, are as follows:
Written in 1984, the premise of the book - a collection of challenging and thought provoking essays - is that Christians in other parts of the world read the Bible in a very different way.
People of privilege read the Bible from a vantage point of comfort that screens out all the parts of a passage that sound threatening.
On the other hand, people from developing nations maintain that the Bible was written from the perspective of the poor and the oppressed. Therefore, they maintain that the Bible is God's word of hope for the marginalized of society.
So Brown has taken ten passages, familiar to many of us, and encourages us through his writing, to view them through a different lens - the lens of the poor and oppressed.
I came across Brown's book in seminary and was so mesmerized by his insights that I have quoted him often; especially the essay on the Magnificat, which is titled, "Mary's Song: Whom Do We Hear?"
One of my first eye-openers was how politically charged the Magnificat was (and is). We hear the Magnificat in our Gospel lesson this coming Fourth Sunday of Advent. We sing it often at Evening Prayer.
In this song, which is also a prayer, Mary speaks of a God who turns things upside down. God scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, brings down the powerful from their thrones, lifts up the lowly; fills the hungry with good things, and sends the rich away empty. [Luke 1:51-53]
These words describing God's mercy and justice did not just apply to the people of the New Testament, but for, "those who fear him from generation to generation." [Luke 1:50]
Brown points out a word of warning to us here in the United States. "Political power is never secure, always vulnerable. But people never expect their own nation to be 'put down,' so that is the word we need to hear: perhaps America is toppling."
Those of us who read scripture from a perspective of privilege - specifically in America - have managed to sanitize the Magnificat into a pretty song sung at Advent and ignored the revolutionary nature of its message.
However, when Latinos, for example, read this passage, they believe in a God who acts in the most unexpected and creative ways, in ways that can even transgress the limits of nature and the patterns of history.
Listen carefully to the words as Mary proclaims that God, "has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant." Ponder those words, then imagine Mary as one of the mothers on the migrant caravan who travels thousands of miles to seek asylum in the United States, only to have her child ripped from her arms upon arrival and have that child die at the hands of Border Patrol agents. (Consider the fate of Mary's son before you recoil angrily at that last statement.)
The Magnificat was the Gospel reading on which I preached last Wednesday night at one of our Latino missions, Iglesia Luterana La Trinidad in Canton, as they celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. For the Latino population, devotion to our Lady of Guadalupe celebrates our humanity, our dignity as human beings, and demands the justice which honors the dignity and worth of every human person, with particular attention to those who are poor and suffering.
This, of course, is not a new concept for the Christian church. Care for the poor has become a major principle of Catholic Social Teaching ever since the Second Vatican Council.
But I go back even further to the blessed Martin Luther, who, in the 16th century, took direct aim at the Church (and the Pope) when he wrote in his Commentary on Galatians: "Next to the preaching of the Gospel, a true and faithful pastor will take care of the poor. Where the Church is, there must be the poor, for the world and the devil persecute the Church and impoverish many faithful Christians."
Luther's observations highlight what should be common knowledge. Scripture wasn't written in a vacuum.
Scripture always takes seriously the human condition and the reality of sin, suffering and death.
If you carefully read the Magnificat and the rest of the story surrounding the birth of Jesus you'll realize that it is not a story that sounds very Christmassy, but it was the real world then as we are experiencing the real world now. Jesus was born to a world like ours; some would argue, into a world even worse than ours.
Though the world may be tearing itself apart in war and civil unrest, though our country is threatening to go over a fiscal cliff because our elected leaders are playing a game of dare with each other over the building of a border wall, though communities live in distress because the security they once took for granted has been wrenched away by gun violence and other acts of terror, we can still sing with Mary in anticipation and expectation for the presence and comfort of a God who shakes up everything we hold dear and reshapes the world into a world of justice, where people shall live secure, and where peace and hope and joy and love will be the models which we all follow.
This Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m., I will be with the people of God at Christ Lutheran Church in Avon Lake to celebrate their Advent Evening Prayer. They are using Holden Evening Prayer, by Marty Haugen, one of my favorite liturgies. Yes, I expect to sing the Magnificat there as well.
On December 24, I will be with the people of God at the Church of the Master in Bedford as they celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord with Lessons and Carols.
I'm a little late in writing my Christmas message for this year's bulletins. I hope to have it completed sometime this week in time so that it can be included in your Sunday or Christmas Eve bulletins.
Rostered leaders, please remember that it's time to complete your annual reports. The link and instructions are available on our Wednesday e-news, or you can access the form by clicking [here]. Also, you will be receiving a Christmas card with your Rostered Leader ID card in the mail. Please DO NOT discard.
This week and always, may
we wait patiently in community for the promises of God to unfold in our lives.
+Bishop Abraham Allende
 Robert McAfee Brown.
Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes
(Kindle Locations 747-748). Kindle Edition.
 Ismael Garcia,
Dignidad: Ethics Through Hispanic Eyes. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997 (p. 153)