Sermon and Worship Service Archive

Our Imperfect Home for God

The Rev. Kit Lonergan
December 24, 2023

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Trinity Church Boston
Advent 4 Year B
December 24, 2023


May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts together always be acceptable in your sight, O God, our strength and redeemer. Amen. 


For those of us who struggle with perfectionist tendencies, this fourth Sunday of Advent is for us. 


It is for those who find themselves behind, or unprepared. It is for those who find themselves tired and scared and worn. It is for those who don’t think of themselves as truly faithful, truly repentant, truly Christian, even. 


This fourth Sunday of Advent, this season of waiting, is for those who struggle with the divide between who we wish to be, and who we are. 


It may feel like we need to be at Christmas already—the peculiarities of the liturgical and Gregorian calendars contribute to that feeling this year—notice that the Advent wreath is flanked by poinsettias and ready to come down only moments after our postlude ends. But this particular Sunday we get more of the Gospel of Luke’s version of the story, the one which feels in many ways ‘the prequel’ to our Christmas pageant in just a few hours. 


So before we get hung up on angels and shepherds and stars and tableaus, it’s important to remember this: Mary didn’t seek out Gabriel. She didn’t cultivate a relationship and network to reach the angel. She wasn’t particularly special or pious, regardless of the narratives we have created over two thousand years. Mary was ordinary. She was human and limited. And God came to her. 


And I think that that is important for us to hear and pray on these days—that God comes to us. Is born in us. As we are, and with what we have, or don’t have, on hand. God moves towards each of us, in our doubt and in our disarray. God moves towards us this day, not shaming us, nor giving us notes for how we can do better next year, but with vulnerability and deep, deep love. 


And what echoes in our hearts in that beautiful song of Mary, the Magnificat, is how she holds those first lines up—My soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my savior. When God comes towards her, her response is to magnify God—to reflect God—and then to rejoice.


Well, actually, first to question God, then to clarify God’s message, and then to magnify. Then rejoice. Mary’s no fool, friends.


The image we tend to hold of Mary offering the Magnificat is as a spotlit solo on a darkened stage—that Mary’s song was at first go one for the ages, one which she knew would be echoed for thousands of years. But it was in the house of her cousin Elizabeth, having shown up unannounced, and only in response to Elizabeth believing that ordinary Mary could be loved and chosen by God for this. Instead of a spotlit stage, I imagine the two women, in the kitchen, holding hands and whispering these hopes to one another out loud, almost daring fate to confound them. 


Perhaps instead of our sense of Mary in the spotlight, we connect back again to her willingness to reflect God. In this particular season of darkness for much of the day, I think often of the impact of one candle in a dark room. And then I think of the impact of a one candle in a dark room with a mirror behind it. The candle can be ordinary, but the work of reflection can magnify the smallest flame in a blaze of light. 


This is that moment in Advent when we are at our most almost-not yet stage of entering into the joy of Christmas. It will be here in roughly five hours, but that doesn’t mean that we are, or even need to be, ready for it. 


When I hear Mary’s song, offering herself as a magnifier of God’s grace, I hear her desperate and fervent hopes whispered out loud, convincing herself again and again that God can move closer to us ordinary people. And I wonder if we may not take her wisdom as our own. To believe that no matter how we are, or where we are, or who we are, that God can make a home in us, in our hearts. To believe, that even in the midst of chaos, imperfect life, imperfect world, that Jesus will find a way to be born among us. To believe that we, in our limited ways, in our doubt, in our distractions, that each of us can act as a mirror to the true light this season. We can magnify the light which is not of our own making, which is given to us, which will come and seek us out and be born among us where we are. 


Even now, God is moving closer to us. We cannot create or curate the birth of the Holy One, it will simply happen. Our role is to hold hands with one another, affirm that we, too, know that God chose the unready, fallible and messy lives as a home for that light. And that in our fractured ways, we can magnify it. 


Come Lord, Jesus. 

Make a home in us.