Advent 4, Year B
Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector, St. Paul’s, Brunswick
Lately, I have been wondering about the connection between the holiday season and the technicolor movie classic…that brought us my favorite childhood chant, “Lions and tigers and bears… oh my!”, The Wizard of Oz. I never really got what it was about the film, one of the first 25 preserved by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, that tied it to this season. My curiosity brought me to Google where I found that in the 50s CBS began airing this film annually around Thanksgiving. Thus, bringing the holiday season and the The Wizard of Oz to be pop culturally connected.
Then, this week the snow day happened and I found myself putting this film on realizing I had not seen it since I was a child. Y’all…have you seen this lately? This movie is a little weird. I’ll be honest, there were multiple times where I looked at Phil and said, “What am I seeing right now?”. And all that aside I will say there were some powerful moments of connection, transformation, and fierce love. There were moments… that reminded me of Mary. The God bearer… Theotokos.
One of these moments that really brought me down a rabbit whole of theological wondering, was the moment when Dorothy first appears before The Great Oz. Where she names herself as “Dorothy, the small and meek”. But what about all that Dorothy has already done to get to this moment where she stands before the powerful Oz, and as all she does just after this as Oz sends her out? Throughout her journey trying to return home to Kansas, she finds her way against impossible odds, like the wicked witch and her flying monkeys, and does so all the while bringing lost ones into the fold. Speaking up for them in justice, protecting them when set upon. Taking on risky and impossible undertakings when told to “come forward”.
I was reminded of how Mary is often referenced as being meek and mild. How Mary, while still named important, is often seen as this passive, meek and mild young woman. One who folks might never expect. She is just a girl likely somewhere between the age of thirteen and seventeen. Her initial response, “How can this be?” leads us to wonder which part of the news is surprising for her. The bearing the Messiah or the being pregnant in general?
Yet, even a bit frightened and perplexed in the midst of Gabriel telling her she would bear God’s son, Mary strongly says, “Here I am.” Sounding like a prophet, she claims her role as God bearer. Maybe, like Dorothy, there is something more to Mary. Maybe there is something about the impossible becoming possible. Especially with those who live in humility and strength seated in justice.
We see just how deep this thread of just resilience resides in Mary through her song, The Magnificat. As she visits Elizabeth to tell her relative her news, Mary sings the song of praise and justice. It is perhaps, one of the most well known pieces of scripture from the New Testament. “One of four poems in the Bible placed in the mouths of women who play key roles in the lives of the people of ancient Israel” (FOTW, 81). In her song, Mary is joining the sacred sisterhood of those who sang of God’s reversals. God breaking into the world and completely changing the life of the Hebrew people. Showing up in ways never expected and re-orienting life. Making the impossible, possible.
Mary’s prophetic voice touches my heart anew this particular Advent, as we journey toward Christmas in a way in which we never have before. When we consider the meaning of Advent we must ponder the theological truth that when God “announces the incarnation of the Word, everything gets turned on its head”. Mary’s song is a recognition on her part of the significance and hope in God acting in this way. She starts with worship and sings in a language of revolution (FOTW, 80). The world she knew, is no longer the same.
In these words, spoken in the past tense, we get the sense that by God showing up and by way of a child she will bring into the world, God’s reign of justice has already begun. God is on the move in ways that seem impossible. Scattering the proud, bringing down rulers from thrones, and lifting lowly, filling the hungry, and sending the rich away empty.
This coming week we will pause and worship and give thanks for the fierce love and courage of Mary who brings Jesus, The Savior, The King, into the brokenness of the world. Mary who brought Jesus into a society fractured by occupation, longing for Messiah. In the midst of having nowhere to go, surrounded by dirt and by animals. We celebrate with joy because God will always break into the world. No matter what. We embrace the Magnificat as sacred words that remind us that, “We are all pregnant with the possibility of new life” (FOTW, 84) through God.
Dorothy, the small and meek, changed the Land of Oz. She was a part of reorienting their world. She was tasked with something risky and that felt impossible. And yet, all the same she ushered in a new sense of light, peace, and justice.
We are reminded that the impossible is possible. God breaks into the world in completely unexpected ways, flipping what we know on its head, inviting us to be co-creators in kin-dom. With Elizabeth, life coming from a place people thought was not possible. Something like the people of God still walking together, dare I say thriving in ways, in the midst of pandemic. Through Mary who says, “Here I am” and in her hope sings of a world of equality that comes with God incarnate in the world. Mary who we see today anticipating the birth of Jesus, as we do now.
The truth is, no matter how meek or mild or not we may feel, we all are God bearers. While we may not be bringing the incarnate Jesus into the world we know that we are indeed the hope, peace, love and joy of Jesus in the world. How will we claim our roles anew as God bearers the rest of this Advent season? This Christmas? This New Year? How will we let the announcement of the Word made flesh invite us to say “Here I am”, and walk in the impossible made possible?
Note for reference: The women Mary joins in singing of God’s reversals are Miriam, Hannah, Judith and Leah.
References: Feasting on the Word, The Wizard of Oz