A few of you understand the sermon title but some will be mystified by the word "meh". Is there someone who would like to try to define it for us? It is a slang term that communicates an attitude of apathy or indifference toward something. My favorite definition is that meh is a verbal shrug. What do you want to eat? Meh. Do you want to catch a movie? Meh. It's one thing to shrug off a choice when it comes to an activity or menu but it seems a whole lot of people could very well define their entire existence with the term meh.
The Grinch lived a meh life. He cut himself off from others, in the live action movie he was a victim which led to his separation. His consuming passion was aimed at maintaining a nasty attitude toward the Who's of Whoville. Now, I've never met anyone who desired to be a Grinch. No one I've met has said, "I want to live a bland existence with no purpose, hope or future. I don't want my life to count for anything."
Yet millions of us do this all the time. Shallow pursuits and hobbies, busyness, vocation and vacation may mask the reality but we know something's missing. We know our life is basically meh. It even happens to those who seem to get a joy out of helping others, caring for people, and fighting injustice may be more about not facing the blandness of our life.
Here is a simple test for one's meh quotient. Imagine the most important reason for living, other than Jesus, stripped from your life--the people, games, job, causes, friendships, hobbies, travel, sports, politics, whatever. They are suddenly and irrevocably gone for good. Is your full of joy? If it is then there is very little meh in your life. If you have no idea how you'd survive such a thing then what I'm about to tell you is very, very important to hear.
The passage from Luke is called the Magnificat. It is the song Mary sings upon meeting Elisabeth who is pregnant with the future John the Baptist. It is a song of praise and wonder to God. It is a musical cry of faith in the wisdom, mercy and future that God provides in the most unusual of situations. I'll probably go into this more later during advent but the fact is Mary had no reason to be so joyful.
She was an unwed, pregnant teenager. That wasn't just looked down on in Jewish culture it was a deal breaker for life itself. It is hard to imagine a modern sin with as far-reaching consequences as hers. Mary's social, spiritual and communal life was over. In fact, Joseph and his family could demand she be stoned for her sin. In the midst of such overwhelming horror Mary is moved, by the Holy Spirit, to declare joy at what God has done and will do.
Mary's song is a song God's work in the lives of those who trust him. Mary doesn't cross her fingers and wish things would be better. Mary doesn't try to make excuses and position herself so that others will see her in the best light. If anything the Bible paints a pretty accurate picture of what she faces.
Mary bases her hope and future on what she knows of her God. God is not surprised at this pregnancy. He sent the angle to communicate the news. The reason for Jesus' birth is to provide the one and way for people to reconnect with God. We use the word "redeem" to describe God's work of making friends out of enemies; of transforming lives from selfishness to otherness and to save those who call upon the name of the Lord.
Mary's sings as well about her own sense of calling. I don't think she is bragging when Mary sings,
"From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
She is aware that God's might deeds done before will be visible again in and through the child she will give birth too. Sometimes even those who seem to have it all are really existing in the bubble of meh. One such person was Dr. Albert Schweitzer. He was a medical doctor and quite well known in the music for his work on classic composers and his own playing ability. But there was something missing and he knew it.
Between his biography by George Marshall and David Poling and his own Anthology we have a pretty clear picture of what changed Schweitzer's life. He glanced through a magazine from a Paris Missionary group. One article caught his eye, The Needs of the Congo Mission. As he read it he heard those men, women, and children in need of those who could aid in their healing as well as spiritual lives. It was a desperate crying out for people to come on over and be involved. Schweitzer wrote about his reading and experience that nigh:
The writer expressed his hope that his appeal would bring some of those "on whom the Master's eyes already rested" to a decision to offer themselves for this urgent work. The conclusion ran: " Men and women who can reply simply to the Master's call, 'Lord, I am coming,' those are the people whom the Church needs." The article finished, I quietly began my work. My search was over.
Schweitzer found a purpose in the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit calling him into radically new and different surroundings. Many of us have heard that same call when it comes to our job, neighborhood or whatever. It is a call to leave behind the old and stale and embrace a future secure with God even though technology seems to explode in our lives.
God is in the business of redeeming lives from meh. God's choice, to send Christ is the one and only plan to reunite with his creation and to bring us back to what we were meant to be and how we were meant to live. There is no other way. There is no 'plan B'. Jesus is THE way God has decided to do this.
To help us with this we are being challenged to act in a redemptive and rejoicing mode. Continue to give people new greetings instead of the old "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays". Try something like, "Hope you're life sees the joy of Christmas this year. Or Rejoice this Christmas.
Folks we are coming to this table not because we deserve it but because your redemptive love is far greater than we can imagine.