December 30, 2018 – The Rev. Pamela Moore

Year C, First Sunday After Christmas, Revised Common Lectionary
Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147 or 147:13-21
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

The Gift of Music

Martin Luther said, “Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul, it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” Every Advent and Christmas I look forward to hearing again music that speaks to my soul. Sometimes it is the melody, sometimes it is the lyrics, and sometimes it is both music and lyrics that help me to see a new connection between humanity and the love of God. I am not a musician and I cannot read music. So, I am in awe of people who can take what looks like hieroglyphics to me and make the symbols into a loving prayer that reaches spiritual places beyond the spoken word.

On Christmas Eve the Alleluia Choir sang a hymn entitled, “Mary Did You Know?” This is the first year that I learned this hymn as I had not heard it before. In case you do not know it either, here are a few lines from the song:

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby you’ve kissed the face of God?

(The full set of lyrics and the source are at the end of the sermon.)

At the time of his birth, Mary could not know all that her child would do. She could not know that he would he a healer, a teacher, a mentor, and willingly give his life to save the lives of everyone including the people who would be responsible for his death. Mary could not know that her son would change the lives of millions including people like you and me. Mary may not have known that her own life came into being through the Son to whom she gave life. For as the Gospel explains, “He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” So, the Son gave birth to the mother who in turn gave birth to the Son. This is an unending circle, God gives life to us, we give our lives to God and when we do, God gives life to us again.

There is something about the music and words in this song that helped me to see why it is so important for us to remember that we were all once helpless babies who depended on someone, anyone, to love and to care for us. In such a vulnerable state we needed love, protection, and dedication to our wellbeing without which we could not thrive. Our experiences are informative. We may not learn to love if we have never experienced love. We may not learn to have empathy if we do not know what empathy feels like. We may not be able to use gifts of grace like healing and teaching if we have never been healed or taught. We need people in our lives who love us without ever knowing who we will become or what we will accomplish.

Sometimes I’ve met people, who are hard and difficult to be with and I wonder if it is because they never experienced what it meant to feel safe and trusting when they were a child and vulnerable. Maybe their early experiences were harsh and painful. Maybe instead of being cherished they were told that they were a “mistake”, “unwanted”, or not important. Maybe they learned to deaden their anguish and pain through addiction, emotional isolation, or running away; using any means necessary to survive. Maybe, never knowing what it felt like to just be loved for who they were when they were a child, they find it difficult to love themselves or to let others love them now. So I wonder if Jesus’ call to love one another was, in part, his knowing that there would always be some folks who would not know the kind of love Mary and Joseph gave to him and he wanted to have a way to share the love he learned with us.

Listening to “Mary, Did You Know?” helped me to think about the role Mary played in Jesus’s ability to fulfill his mission. Perhaps his unconditional love for humanity came, in part, from her unconditional love for him. Maybe compassionate healing was learned from a mother who soothed his hurts.

I wonder if Mary’s faith inspired Jesus to include women in his ministry because he knew, firsthand, how a woman can conquer fear by trusting God? Is it possible that Jesus learned from Mary that acceptance of God’s will can help one to withstand any trial or tribulation? Mother and Son. Son and Mother. She came into being because of him. He came into being because of her. Mary received gifts from God, gifts she shared with her Son, who in turn shared his gifts with the world. The child that she delivered, soon delivered her. And when she kissed her baby, she kissed the face of God. It is the never-ending story of love between humanity and God. A story told through the singing of this hymn.

Just as John the Baptist came to testify to the coming of the light into our lives, I think that music can enlighten us and help us to see the glory of God. The songs we sing help us to have a spiritual conversation with God. Music can help us to see scripture in new and different ways. Whether a chant, a round, a hymn or a litany, music can help us to understand the Gospel and explore our theology and faith in ways that nourish the soul.

There are many services and forms of worship that do not include music that also provide spiritual exploration and enlightenment. Our 8:00 a.m. worship, for example, is deeply spiritual for many people and helps them to engage with God in a way that speaks to their heart. So, I want you to know that I shared my thoughts with you this morning about how music enhances my spirituality because I hope it will encourage you to think about what calls you into a deeper spiritual engagement with the Gospel. For me it is music. For you, it may be something else. Whatever helps you to engage more deeply with the Word is a gift of grace and that is Good News.

“Mary, Did You Know?” lyrics

Source: https://oldielyrics.com/christmas/mary_did_you_know.html

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
That your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered
Will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?
Did you know
That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby
You’ve kissed the face of God

Mary, did you know?
The blind will see
The deaf will hear
And the dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of the Lamb

Mary, did you know
That your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
That your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
That your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding
Is the Great I Am

Oh Mary did you know?

Lyrics by Mark Lowry in 1984, and music written by Buddy Greene in 1991.