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 a teenager. 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.
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 the message the
angel gave to Mary is also a manifesto for the churches agenda. 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.
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 who
are vulnerable because they are women or young or powerless, homeless,
refugees. 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 find it more difficult to
recognise that God is with us.
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 in Syria, Myanmar.
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.