The First United Presbyterian Church
Rev. Amy Morgan
December 23, 2018
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth;
5 and he shall be the one of peace.
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country,
40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?
44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.
45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
46 And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
I invite you to begin by remembering a time when you felt…like a no-body. Some time in your life when you were put down, forgotten, passed over. Perhaps you were a young child. Or perhaps you experienced this feeling very recently. Perhaps you have felt this way more than once. But I invite you to choose just one experience. It doesn’t have to be the “right” one. There is no right or wrong. Just choose any experience you remember when you felt worthless.
Remember, as vividly as you can, where you are, what you are wearing. Who else is there with you? What sounds do you hear? Are words spoken? Try to remember them as clearly as possible.
This may be an uncomfortable or sad memory. It is fine to feel sad. Just be in that for a moment.
Now, I invite you to imagine someone walking toward you. They are familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time. Like someone out of context.
But this person is looking at you in a way that no one has ever looked at you before. They are radiating love. You can see it written all over their face. They love you, no matter what. They think you are wonderful. You delight them. No one, ever, has loved you this much, this deeply, this truly.
The love of this person fills you. Heals you. Re-makes you.
When the person reaches you, they embrace you. They hold you as though you are the most valuable treasure on the planet. They tell you how much they love you, how priceless you are to them.
Now, this person invites you to get up, and to follow them. Even as you separate from this person, you continue to feel enveloped by their love. You walk away from the place where you felt worthless, and you journey…to a large campground. There are thousands of tents, for miles and miles around.
From the tents emerge other people who, like you, feel like nobodies. They have been bullied, battered, left out. They feel worthless, unseen, unknown.
Study the people around you. There are so many of them. Hunched over, eyes downcast. Some are gaunt with hunger. Others are filthy, wearing ill-fitting clothes, no shoes. Many of them are people of color, but they are of every race and tribe imaginable.
Look at their body language. Listen to their voices – timid, mumbling, with just a hint of desperate anger. Feel the suppressed emotion radiating from this great crowd of nobodies.
The person who loves you looks you directly in the eye. That deep love now fills you with purpose. The person looks out over the crowd of people in tents, the village of nobodies. That gaze of love falls on each of them.
You now find yourself looking at the people in the crowd differently. It isn’t easy, or instant, or natural, but you begin to love them. Each of them individually. And all of them together. They are not nobodies. They are loved. All of them. And each of them.
As love begins to seep into each person in the tents, you notice they begin to change. Those who were gaunt with hunger are now healthy and strong. Those who were hunched over are standing up straight with confident eyes. Their clothes are fine and fit. They are being transformed by that gaze of love.
The village of tents begins to change as well. There are now streets and houses, sidewalks and shops.
You notice the people are looking at you. They, too, are radiating that same love that came from the first person you encountered. Hundreds, thousands of eyes, filled with love, focused on you. Not a hint of judgment or superiority. Just love and joy in your presence.
You notice that you, too, are being transformed. You are healthy and well and whole. You are content and confident and joyful.
Now you begin to hear music. A song of joy and praise like you’ve never heard before. The most beautiful song, sung from the heart by the multitudes of the beloved.
You don’t know the words or the tune, but you long to join in. You take a deep breath -
And you open your mouth, and out comes a voice that is uniquely and beautifully yours. Your song resonates through your whole body. And it is beyond beautiful. And it feels wonderful and freeing. You sing with joy and with praise, to the One who loved you, to the One who loves us all.
As your song comes to an end, you hear the sound of footsteps. Lots of footsteps. Marching – no trudging – all together. And into town arrives a great caravan of nobodies. Hunched and hungry and downcast, just like you and those around you used to be.
As they pass by you down the street, you recognize with a shock many familiar faces. Those who told you that you were a nobody. The bullies. The rich and powerful. The popular kids. The people who ignored you, belittled you, insulted you. They are all there in this new crowd of nobodies.
You don’t know where they came from or where they are going. They pass through, dull-eyed and hopeless.
And though everything within you rebels against this impulse, you can’t help it – you love them. You run to catch up with those who’ve passed, and you take one them by the arm. And you look them in the eye. And you love them. Darn it! You love them.
They look at you with wonder, unable to believe the love that you feel for them. You can hardly believe it yourself. You lead them out of the caravan of nobodies and welcome them to the town of the beloved. They, too, are changed, from forlorn and destitute to joyful and well.
You leave them, and go back for another. Others follow your lead, walking into the group of nobodies again and again, and pulling people out with the force of love. The caravan can no longer move, there are so many people stepping into it.
As the crowd thins out, you see that there is only one person left, trudging along, dressed in rags, bare feet muddy and raw. They are bent over, emaciated, slowly making their way down the street, past all the beloved.
No one goes out to meet them. No one tries to draw them out with love. They look with pity and sadness on this person, but they don’t know how to love them.
For the briefest moment, this miserable person glances up at you. And you realize who it is. The One who loved you first. The One who held you and told you how precious you are.
You are dismayed. How could this happen? How could this One become a nobody? You are so shocked you cannot move. You simply watch in horror as this One shambles by.
Your heart swells with love, and you feel that everyone around you feels the same way. You all love this One, so much. Some people try to go and pull this One off the street, give them a place in the town of the beloved. But it doesn’t work. This One won’t be diverted.
Finally, you step out, and walk alongside the One who loves you. You join in the slow march from the town of the beloved to…you don’t know where. It is a march for nobodies, you know that. But you can’t leave this One to walk alone.
Others join you. Just a few at first. And then more and more. Until the town empties out and all the beloved join the march of the nobodies.
And as you slowly walk along, you hear a new song rising up from the caravan:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”