The Christ Mass festival has been celebrated since about 400 AD, Christ' means 'Messiah' or 'Anointed One' - the title given to Jesus - and 'Mass' was a religious festival. Today if you visited Britain from another planet you would be forgiven for thinking that Christmas was a retail festival! This Christmas we will rush around fulfilling the need to buy presents for our loved ones and friends. But this is not what Christmas is about.
Mary was a young girl possibly a teenager. She suddenly finds herself pregnant and visited by angels. It could be a bad hair day! The child she is carrying is destined to fulfill the prophesies concerning the Jewish Messiah. He will change history and be a beacon for those who are oppressed, a standard for all to live by in opposition to the standards of society. So Mary went to stay with her cousin Elizabeth who also was expecting a baby but was further advanced in her pregnancy. Mary went to a town in the hill country of Judea.
The Song of Mary is in the form of a hymn of praise directed to God for his kindness toward Mary, with particular reference to remnant Israel and reflecting the Old Testament sense of God's covenant loyalty and loving kindness toward Israel, his hesed, Heb., "his faithful love". To those who acknowledge God's position and authority. His mercy extends to all people in all ages."
Mary stayed approximately three months, indicating that Mary probably stayed till the birth of John.
3. You and Me
My own family didn’t go to church so Christmas was empty of the spiritual. It was purely a family affair. So it was for that reason that on Christmas day in 1972 I became a Christian because my life was lacking the focus and structure that being a Christian brings.
The Old Testament prophets spoke of a return to God and to keeping Gods laws as a basis for living in peace, peace with God, with one another and themselves. When God’s people wander away from their true calling, and forget the plight of others, they become aimless and empty, and their souls are not fed. Only God can satisfy the hungry soul, and so Gods prophets cry in the emptiness and chaos, because in their hearts is a dream which refuses to die. Isaiah speaks of a light in the darkness. Its an everlasting promise, there will be light in the darkness for Gods people, because as the passage goes on to say a child will be born who will save the people. This child, this Jesus.
And so like the rest of the church throughout the world we are waiting this Advent time for that child to be born again in our hearts, in our lives, in our communities, God with us. And so the preparation is a spiritual one, we turn to God to put ourselves in order, much as a confession before receiving communion, in order to be ready for the coming of Christ in our own lives. Part of that preparation means recognizing that all is not well in our own lives and in the lives of those� around us.
The Christmas festival is symbolised by light, a light shining in darkness and the coming of hope. The story of the coming of Christ is a vehicle, a carrier of hope for us all to feed our spirits and our imaginations. The incarnation is God with us, born as a human being suffering as we suffer. Today this message challenges us to live lives according to gospel values rather than those of the consumer capitalism that surrounds us. God given hope is not optimism, or sentimentality, based on ignorance or naivite. It is based quite simply in a trust in God. the God who brings light into darkness. and speaks to us.
This Christmas there will be no hope in the noisy shopping rituals and the exchange of presents if there is not also a humbling, a waiting, a vulnerability, to Christ’s coming again, the perspective of God with us-Immanuel, can change us, forever, completely. For many of us we need to feel the brush of angels wings and the whisper of hope this Advent, this waiting time, to give our lives to Christ, knowing our own inadequacies and failings and by the presence of the Holy Spirit living a new and changed life.