Take us to Bethlehem, House of Bread
Where the hungry are filled
And the satisfied sent empty away
Where the poor find riches
And the rich recognize their poverty
And all who worship are filled with awe.
Today on this 4th Advent Sunday we traditionally remember Mary, chosen by God to give birth to Jesus. Mary knew it was going to be a hard time for her and she was just a young girl, a teenage mum. In her life she had some hard journeys to make, 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. Mary knew what Jesus birth was meant to bring.
In the story we hear described that an angel comes to Mary to tell her she will be pregnant before marriage. We also know that Joseph, her fiancé thinking the worst, plans to divorce her. It's a story with ominous beginnings. It is a story of crisis. The Christmas story begins with shame, the shame of a pregnant unmarried teenage mother, a single parent and a break up of relationship. It goes on to release its power through the childless, the dumb, the poor. This Christmas they are all still with us. Those we despise because of their situation. those who are vulnerable, those who are powerless. It is to these and many others that the Christ light gives hope, lifting up the lowly, proclaiming release to the captives, bringing meaning at a time of crisis.
And so it is that with Christians throughout the world that we are waiting and preparing. The Bible gives us a spectrum of history from 20th century BC to 21st century AD and we see the message of hope run like a golden thread through the story a drama, Gods drama. The hope of the rainbow and ê the ark; the hope of the Israelites in Egypt; the hope for a king, the hope of deliverance from Babylon and finally the hope of the Messiah, the one who will come to deliver the people. We often hope for a deliverance which we do not get. Deliverance from poverty, from pain, from death and yet 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.
The message of hope that the Christmas story brings is the golden thread that runs through the story of Gods people. For many of us we need to feel the brush of angels wings and the whisper of hope this Advent, this waiting time.
We may experience hope coming to us in a dream. We may realise that the situation we regarded as hopeless is a vehicle of hope. We may realise that God is with us in all things and especially in the crisis
There can be nothing better than to hear words of hope. An infertility broken. A diagnosis wrong. A wrong forgiven. A brokeness mended. New possibilities envisaged. Hope of a better world, hope of in Syria, Chechnyia, Iraq, Afghanistan. Hope born of years in prison, or of a death for a dream. Of such things others maybe have much to teach us.
This Christmas there will be no hope in the noisy shopping rituals and the exchange of presents but hope is found in the humbling, waiting, vulnerability. Christs coming, the perspective of God with us, can change us, forever, completely.
God given hope is not optimism, or sentimentality, based on ignorance or naivite. It is based quite simply in a trust in God. A little candle light burning in the darkness is a symbol of Christmas and a source of inspiration shared by people of all faiths. May this Christmas be a vehicle, a carrier of hope for us all to feed our spirits and our imaginations and to inspire us, with the angel’s message, to bring hope and peace on earth.
This week take time and space to be still before God, take time to look at your priorities as we approach the end of another year, take time to give to others less fortunate than yourself and the God of Hope, the God of Light will be with you, and you will know it by the peace in your hearts. And of such stuff are dreams made of and of such stuff is the journey that as Christians we embark on when we decide to truly follow the Light of All Lights.
Loving God help us once more to hear your voice
and glimpse your light.
Deepen our faith
and enlarge our understanding,
so that even in the darkest of places and bleakest moments of life we may recognise that the light of your love continues to shine, and that nothing shall finally overcome it.