Tuesday 18 December 2012

Advent 4, Luke 1v39-45

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.

On the fourth Advent Sunday we remember Mary, chosen by God to
give birth to Jesus. 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 fulfil 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. She knew it was going to be hard and she was just. In her life she had some hard journeys to make too-to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, to Egypt, where they 

had to go to escape the soldiers, and to the cross, where she watched her son die.

And yet she said yes to the angel.
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.

If you have no contact with the church at this time then Christmas is empty of the spiritual. It is purely a family affair. 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. Immanuel.

Some of us have travelled long journeys away from our place of birth to where we are today. 

Some of us have travelled hard journeys before today.

Mary knew what her son's birth was meant to bring and I wonder how our journeys as 

Christians and as a church measure up to the message in the Magnificat? The season of 

Advent is a time of waiting, waiting for the Christ, the baby born to be Messiah, the God/man 

The Magnificat sung by Mary as she carries the baby born to be such an important person in 

human history, gives us hope too of material relief from poverty. In the story we hear 

described that an angel comes to Mary to tell her she will be  pregnant before marriage. We 

also know from Matthew that Joseph, thinking the worst, plans to divorce her. It's a story with 

ominous beginnings. A story of crisis.

We dont want our ordered world disturbed with the scandalous and unexpected. The 

Christmas story begins with shame, the shame of a pregnant unmarried mother and an 

imminent divorce. It goes on to release its power through the childless, the dumb, the poor. 

This Christmas they are all with us. Those we despise because of their situation. Those

who are vulnerable because they are women or young or powerless. It is to these and many 

others that the Christ light gives hope, lifting up the lowly, proclaiming release to the 

captives. For many of us our materialism and our busy lives stifle us and we will find it more

difficult to recognise the spiritual. God with us.

This week if we can take time and space to be still before God, take time to look at our 

priorities as we approach the end of another year and take time to put right relationships 

around you as far as is possible, take time to give to others less fortunate than yourself then 

the God of Hope will be with us and we will know it by the peace in our hearts.



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