Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"for he has been mindful of the humble..."

And Mary said:
My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
-Luke 1:46-49

In the second chapter of the book of Genesis, God creates a man (adam) from the dust of the earth (adamah) and breathes into his nostrils the breath of life. When the man receives the breath, he becomes a living being. With the breath of life, the man (the dirt) becomes truly alive.

Such is the nature of the Spirit's work—calling forth light from darkness; beauty from chaos; life from the dry, inanimate, dust.

Our English word humble is derived from the Latin word humus which means ground—or, in other words, the dust of the earth. The ground, the dust—the lowly, the trodden upon; a place of humiliation, disgrace, and in Saint Mary's culture, as well as our own, a social location that produces a a considerable amount of scarcity, anxiety, insecurity and shame.

But the work of the Spirit is to call forth light from darkness; beauty from chaos; life, goodness, breath, spirit from the dirt, from the dust. From the humus. The humbled. The lowly. The humiliated.

To make human those who have been deemed not quite alive.

In Luke's gospel, when Mary sings with joy at the anticipation of her Son-to-be and the Kingdom to come—where the lowly are lifted and the powerful are torn from their thrones (1:52), she sings not only of the dawn of hope, and the Prince of Peace. Mary also sings of the God who comes to God's people in the form of an adam, a human. She sings of the Son of God born in a dirty manger, among a desperate people. She sings of God becoming humus. Humbled. Lowly. Dust.

The First becoming last. So that the last might become first, as Jesus so often proclaimed.

As the holidays approach—as we anticipate candy canes and nativity scenes, wrapping paper and baby Jesus, it is good for us to remember that Christmas, as it's told in the Bible, has almost nothing to do with good smells or shiny paper.

Rather, Christmas has to do with the First becoming last—God becoming dust—so that we, dust, might become truly alive. And when God's Spirit has been breathed into us, into our church, and into our community, Christmas has to do with us living in that same Spirit that gives us life, and creating a community where all people are treated as human, all people are made alive, and all of our sisters and brothers, from the first to the last, from the bottom to the top are treated as beautifully created, children of dust, children of Spirit, children of a living and ever-loving God.

All earth is hopeful the Savior comes at last! / Furrows lie open for God's creative task; /
this the labor of people who struggle to see / how God's truth and justice set everybody free.
-Toda la tierra, Hymn #266 in our hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship

May God shower us with God's Spirit this holy season.

In the Hope of Christ,

Rev. Thomas R. Gaulke

(Written for the newest First Trinity Newsletter!)

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