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Seeking Sanctuary

“Seeking Sanctuary”

December 19, 2021

Luke 1:39-55

4th Sunday of Advent


Mary Visits Elizabeth

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and

exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’


And Mary said,

‘My soul magnifies the Lord,

   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,

for he has looked with favour 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;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

   and sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,

   in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

   to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

________________________________________

I love the revision of Mary Did You Know, because on this day we honor that Mary was

one a very wise woman. She’s often portrayed in contrast to the other figures of the nativity as meek and mild, and demure. Not wise, strong or brave like the shepherds or the magi or Joseph.

But the Bible tells us differently. Mary knows a lot, actually. But there are two main

things that she knows that she needs you to know today.

The first, seek sanctuary. If the ground under you begins to shake, seek a safe place don’t try to go it alone. Mary knows that once she has become pregnant that she is vulnerable and that she needs community. So she seeks out Elizabeth. She finds support and love in the midst of an unexpected season of uncertainty. What will it mean to be a mom in her teens? Will Joseph marry her after all? What will people say about her with her unconventional pregnancy, and even more so, her child of unusual origin. All of this uncertainty is swirling around Mary and she knows that answers aren’t going to come easy. So instead she seeks a safe place with people who love her. This is what sanctuary is.

This is why, I hope, you have found your way here. When you have questions in your

life and uncertainty about how things will work out, God doesn’t always provide

answers, but God always opens a door to a safe place. Don’t try to do hard things

alone. Seek out community and let yourself be embraced.

The second thing Mary knows and wants us to know, too, is that once you have been embraced and sheltered and given sanctuary, you will grow stronger. You will find your voice. And once you have found your voice, you ought to use it to help everyone else around you who longing for that same sanctuary you already found.

Mary’s song of praise is a song of joy and thanksgiving for the refuge God has

provided her in her difficult time. But in it she also bears witness to the way God will be a sanctuary for every single hurting person that will ever live.

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;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

   and sent the rich away empty.

Mary knows everything she needs to know about what kind of God she is bearing in her womb. This is a God who will come into this world to find the vulnerable and give them shelter. This is a God who will come into this world to find the lost and open a door to home. This is a God who will find those unjustly treated because of their gender or their social status or their poverty or their health or their history, and this is a God who will see them for who they are and give them the sanctuary they need to be whole again.

Mary knew this. Do we know this? Are we working hard to make sure the doors to this sanctuary are open to everyone? Are we breaking down barriers that disparage people because of their social status? We holding the powerful accountable? Are we checking our own pride? Are we practicing the same kind of humility in our own lives that Mary practiced as she gave birth to the King of Kings in the middle of livestock in a back room barn?

Mary knew, do we know?


Let Us Pray

God of safe spaces, we wish we were more like Mary, who in the face of

great change, went and sought help. She did not wait for help to find her;

she walked to the shelter she needed. Too often we wait silently for the

world to change around us instead of speaking up for the things we need.

Forgive us for failing to care for ourselves the way you would care for us.

Give us the courage to be more like Mary.

God of safe places, we wish we were more like Elizabeth, who greeted Mary

with laughter and contagious joy. How many people have crossed our

doorstep and how many times have we failed to see them? Give us the

courage of Mary, and the grace of Elizabeth. Help us to be people who not

only seek sanctuary, but provide it for those around us who most need it.

Gratefully we pray, amen.

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