Recently, I consulted the modern source of all knowledge on something. That’s right, I went to Google. When I arrived, I typed in the phrase “I can finally rest in peace.” Then, I narrowed the search to only news articles where the phrase appeared and then I waited no more than a second for the results. Google did not fail me. This incredible internet resource immediately found 12 pages of articles where the phrase “I can finally rest in peace” was used. It probably won’t surprise you in the least to learn that the content and focus of the articles Google found was all over the board. Some were the stories of people who had died after heartbreaking illnesses or who had passed away having lived troubled lives. Their death meant they could now “rest in peace.”
Other stories were much lighter and dealt with sports teams winning championships after long draughts or celebrities who were doing well after a tough patch. In those stories, the fans of the teams or celebrities could now “rest in peace.”
There were also stories of business successes, financial windfalls and political victories. The winners in each story had found peace.
Finally, there were several stories of victims of crimes. The perpetrator had been caught, justice had been served and those who had been wronged finally felt the peace of mind that they had long sought.
All of us want to be able to rest in peace. We want to find peace in the midst of our anxieties, worries and fears. Truth be told, many of our fears may very well be related to several of the subjects I just mentioned that were the focus of the articles discovered in my Google search.
Yet, further and more importantly, I believe that all of us, also, want to find peace in general in life. Deep in our hearts, what I believe we all want more than anything is to reach a point where we can live our days with a sense of serenity in our hearts and souls in the ordinary moments of everyday life.
Our text for today is one of the most beloved of all of the Christmas texts. It is Mary’s song of joy, offered upon learning that she has been chosen to be God’s servant who will give birth to and be the earthly mother of the Messiah. It is also called The Magnificat because of the first line of the passage in which Mary says “my soul magnifies the Lord.” Many say that one of the reasons that we are so drawn to this text is that it is clearly the story of someone who has found peace in her life And, what Mary has found is what we all want.
Interestingly, Mary’s peace is not a result of everything being right in her corner of the world. Mary’s life was every bit, if not more, chaotic than our own. Mary was incredibly young. The circumstances of her pregnancy were mysterious. There was no way of knowing how Joseph was going to feel about all of this. And, there is a sense that the young couple did not have a whole lot from a monetary perspective. Social concerns, family uncertainties and financial constraints all stared Mary in the face just like they do us. Yet, Mary sang. And, Mary didn’t sing a sad song, it is a profound song of joy and peace.
What Mary teaches us is a lesson that is both simple and complex. She reminds us that having a soul at peace is not found when everything is right in our world, when our favorite sport’s team finally reaches their goal, when we land the job of a lifetime, have a financial windfall or get the justice that we feel that we deserve. Instead, Mary teaches us that the peace of the soul comes when we say yes to God’s will for our lives. It happens when we say yes to the things that God keeps asking us to do or to be. It comes, like a grand gift, when we live into what God has created and called us to be.
Mary’s purpose, at least in part, was to be the earthly mother of the Messiah. Mary said yes. That response didn’t solve all of her problems but it did set her soul at rest.
I believe that God is constantly talking to us. The question really isn’t does God speak. The question is are we willing to listen and to answer? No, God likely will not call us to a role like Mary’s task. But, we must not discredit or ignore the calm that will come into our lives when we join God by offering our human response to holy invitations. What is God asking you to do? Is it to finally accept him as Lord through knowing his son Jesus and becoming a Christian? It is to finally take on a level of responsibility in our church and not just be a consumer? It is to help a friend or neighbor in some way? Or, is to take a turn in your life that allows you to do something meaningful and redemptive? Where is the holy invitation awaiting your human response?
I have been reading a memoir in recent days. Part of the author’s story is about his boyhood years in church. As he recalls the various ministers his family had over the years, he mentions one in particular. He wasn’t necessarily very fond of this pastor. But, the way this gentleman greeted him each Sunday was both peculiar and hard to forget. Rather than saying “good morning” or “how was your week?” The pastor’s regular Sunday question was this, “how is your soul?” That is my question to us today. How is your soul? Is it a soul at rest? Is it at peace? Amen.