This comes to wish you and yours every blessing and happiness during the Advent and Christmas season. The anticipation builds as we meditate, traditionally, on ‘the Last Things’ – death, judgement, heaven and hell – and as we reflect on God’s people waiting for a Savior, on the prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah, on John the Baptist who prepared the way and on Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Christ.
It is all-too-easy to get caught up in the busyness of preparation for Christmas Day and so overlook what this time is about in terms of faith. Advent-tide is about quiet waiting and not frantic rushing; it is about fasting and not feasting; it is about reflection and not hassle. ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’ as a popular car-window sticker says!
The Gospel reading for the fourth Sunday in Advent (Luke1: 39-55) presents a picture of waiting and wondering; love and support; affirmation and praise. A young woman, unexpectedly pregnant, travels all the way from Nazareth to the hill country of Judaea. She is undoubtedly apprehensive about the social consequences of her condition (cf. Matthew 1:19) and she needs a confidante. Who better than her cousin, also unexpectedly pregnant? Elizabeth and Mary greet each other and, recognizing the significance of their pregnancies, burst into praise of God. Their babies will be cousins and, more than that, friends. Elizabeth’s son will proclaim the greatness of his cousin, Jesus, whose shoes he feels unworthy to loosen; Mary’s son will mourn the death of his cousin, John, declaring him to be more than a prophet.
Mary’s Song (Luke 1: 46b-55) has occupied the minds of poets and musicians, liturgists and theologians, for centuries. That an unmarried and pregnant young woman from a rural village in an occupied country should articulate such revolutionary thinking was – and is – extraordinary.
A prayer? A vision? An aspiration? It is all of these and a statement of faith in the mighty acts of God. It is a call for justice and equality, for a place for the voiceless and the marginalized, for the hungry to be fed and for the humble to be lifted up.
Sisters and brothers, is Mary speaking to us this Advent and Christmas as we look on the world her Son came to save? The hungry still need to be fed; the powerful still need to learn humility; there are still those who are rich at the expense of others; there are still regimes which need to be brought low. How do we respond to the challenge of Mary’s Song and how may we, ‘the people called Methodist’, help bring in a world where all may have life and have it to the full (John 10.10b)? Let us reflect on this as we join with the angels singing over Bethlehem that first Christmas, ‘Glory to God and peace on earth’.
Every blessing for Advent and Christmas – and into 2019!