God Uses The Lowly to Turn the World

Photo credit: Alex Rudy

Photo credit: flickr / Alex Rudy

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is, not surprisingly, holiday music. From sacred masterworks to secular carols on the radio, the holidays bring music and different musical traditions to the foreground of our lives.

A choral masterpiece that I had the opportunity to perform with my college choir was Handel’s Messiah. The Messiah contains tons of beautiful choral movements along with soloists for each voice. Through the different movements the story of Jesus is told: from the foreshadowing of his coming in the Old Testament, to his birth, to Christ’s eventual crucifixion, and then onward to resurrection.

Of all the movements, my favorite is a tenor solo entitled Every Valley. The lyrics for this piece are:

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; 

the crooked straight, and the rough places plain.

The lyrics are lifted directly from Isaiah 40:4, which we heard on Sunday as the reading from the Bible and inspiration for Bishop J’s powerful message. The passage not only implies preparing the way of coming royalty, but how this arrival is going to change everything.  In The Canticle of the Turning, which serves as our musical guide for this Advent season, this sentiment is echoed:

Though I am small, my God, my all, you work great things in me.

And your mercy will last from the depths of the past to the end of the age to be.

Your very name puts the proud to shame, and those who would for you yearn,

You will show your might, put the strong to flight, for the world is about to turn

Over and over in the Scriptures we see God using lowly things that we would never imagine God using. Instead of using the things or people that we would expect, God confounds our expectations and chooses instead the unexpected, the underdog.

Jesus dined with sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and their ilk. God has used the foolhardy, the weak, the elderly, the stubborn, the faithless, and those that society would consider less than to complete God’s work and glorify God. And perhaps no greater testament to that is God choosing to enter the world as a human, only to be born in a stable, surrounded by animals, to an unwed teenage mother.

As we anticipate the world-turning coming of Christ, let us focus on the people whom we consider to be lowly and recognize their true beauty. And when we prepare the way for God, it becomes a path of equal footing for all, regardless of status, means, or ability.